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First Zika virus case detected in Taiwan (update)

2016/01/19 17:28:19

(From the website of the Pan American Health Organization)

Taipei, Jan. 19 (CNA) The Zika virus has arrived in Taiwan, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said Tuesday, after a Thai national coming to Taiwan to work for the first time was confirmed to be infected with the virus.

The 24-year-old man was detected with a fever when he arrived at Taoyuan International Airport on Jan. 10. Further tests showed that he had the mosquito-borne disease, and he is now being observed at a local hospital.

Liu Ting-ping (劉定萍), director of the Epidemic Intelligence Center under the Centers for Disease Control, said the Thai national had a fever and a headache before coming to Taiwan and was stopped at the fever screening station at the airport.

The man said he had lived in northern Thailand during the previous three months and was coming to Taiwan to work for the first time.

Two other people from northern Thailand accompanied the patient to Taiwan, but neither tested positive for the Zika or dengue fever virus.

CDC Director-General Steve Kuo (郭旭崧) said this was the first Zika virus case detected in Taiwan since the agency began to monitor and test for the virus.

The CDC has listed the Zika virus as a second-category notifiable infectious disease, meaning that doctors should notify the CDC of suspected cases within 24 hours.

The agency has updated its travel advisory for several countries in view of the spreading outbreak based on its three-level system -- watch, alert and warning -- in order of severity.

It has issued an "alert" advisory for Central and South America and the Caribbean. It also issued a "watch' advisory for Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Maldives.

Liu said the Zika virus spread quickly in Central and South America in the latter part of 2015.

There have also been cases in Cabo Verde in Africa and in Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia and sporadic imported cases in Europe, Canada and the United States from Central and South America.

The symptoms of the Zika virus include fevers, mild headaches, skin rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis.

Liu noted the Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly -- a condition where a child is born with a smaller-than-normal head and impaired brain development -- in Brazil and Hawaii, where pregnant woman may have contracted the mosquito-borne virus and transmitted to their babies.

But Liu said it has "yet to be determined" whether microcephaly is in fact connected to the Zika virus.

(By Lung Pei-ning and Lilian Wu)