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Taiwan to adjust H7N9 travel advisories for China June 1

2013/05/29 21:14:42

Taipei, May 29 (CNA) Taiwan will downgrade its H7N9 travel advisory for various Chinese destinations from June 1, except for Beijing, the Central Epidemic Command Center said Wednesday.

The center has maintained a Level-2, or yellow color-coded, travel alert for eight Chinese provinces and two cities since late April over H7N9 avian flu concerns.

"Starting June 1, the travel advisory will be downgraded to Level-1 for those destinations, except for Beijing," said Chang Feng-yi, director-general of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), who concurrently heads the epidemic command center.

The Level-2 travel advisory will remain in force for Beijing, because a new H7N9 case was confirmed there Tuesday, Chang added.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported late that day that a 6-year-old boy living in the capital had tested positive for H7N9 infection, making him the second confirmed H7N9 case reported in Beijing.

Chang said the case was unusual because it was detected during a community-based monitoring activity rather than being reported by a hospital.

"The case indicates that the H7N9 virus remains alive in the Beijing area," Chang said, adding that the new bird flu strain's adaptability to humans is even better than that of the H5N1 virus that caused a global outbreak in 2007.

Under the CDC's three-level travel advisory system, a Level-2 alert calls for travelers to be highly cautious and to take extra hygiene precautions, especially when visiting certain high-risk places.

The Level-1 advisory urges those who are bound for listed destinations to exercise vigilance and take health precautions.

The H7N9 strain was unknown in humans until it began sickening people in China in late March and was identified as a new and virulent strain. Scientists in China and other countries said the virus has jumped from birds, most probably chickens, to humans.

To date, it has infected 131 people in China, 37 of whom have succumbed to the infection.

Taiwan is the only area outside China that has reported an imported case of H7N9.

The Taiwanese patient, identified only by his family name Lee, became infected during a trip to China but was discharged from hospital May 24 after 35 days of intensive medical treatment that led to his good recovery.

As almost all H7N9 patients in China present with high fever and pneumonia, Chang said, local medical institutions are required to report cases of people with those symptoms who have traveled to China or who have come into contact with poultry 14 days before falling ill, so that they can be screened for H7N9.

Given the geographic proximity and the large scale of civilian exchanges between Taiwan and China, local people should not relax their vigilance against the disease, especially during the coming autumn, when migratory birds might bring the H7N9 virus into Taiwan.

(By Chen Ching-fang and Sofia Wu)