Taipei, April 23 (CNA) The H5N2 strain of avian influenza does not cause disease in humans, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Monday after three people in Taiwan were confirmed Sunday to have tested positive for antibodies to the contagious bird flu.
The three people -- two animal quarantine officials and a worker on a chicken farm -- were the first humans to have tested positive for antibodies to the flu strain since outbreaks of the disease at local chicken farms were made public in March.
At a press conference to address public concerns over the cases, animal quarantine official Huang Kwo-ching, citing a statement by the World Health Organization, said the H5N2 flu can only spread among birds and does not cause human diseases.
The three people are healthy and have not developed any flu symptoms, said Huang, the deputy director general of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine.
Deputy Health Minister Lin Tzou-yien suggested that the presence of the antibodies could be a result of cross-reactivity because two of the three people received seasonal flu vaccinations last year and all of them got H5N1 flu vaccinations more recently.
But Lin could not completely rule out the possibility of the three contracting the flu but not showing any symptoms.
As for control of the outbreak, 14,424 chicken farms have been inspected so far, and 476 were being monitored. If no more new cases of H5N2 flu are found, that will suggest that the outbreak has abated, Huang said.
Taiwan confirmed the first outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza on March 3 after chicken farms in Changhua and Nantou counties, as well as in Tainan, reported avian flu outbreaks. Over 75,000 chickens have been culled as a result of the outbreaks.
(By Chen Wei-ting and Kendra Lin)