(CNA file photo)
Taipei, Feb. 4 (CNA) Taiwan on Saturday reported its first case of human infection of avian influenza A (H7N9) for this year, involving a Taiwanese businessman based in China who was confirmed to be infected with the virus and continues to receive treatment in an intensive care unit, according to health authorities.
A Kaohsiung native, the 69-year-old man developed a fever on Jan. 23 while working in China's Guangdong province and had sought medical treatment there, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said.
He returned to Taiwan on Jan. 25 and went to a local hospital the next day, when he was reported as a suspicious case of infection with avian influenza A, the CDC said.
But at the time, the man tested negative for the virus, according to the CDC.
Then on Jan. 29, the man developed symptoms including fever and coughing with phlegm and went to the hospital again, and doctors suspected that he had come down with pneumonia, it said.
He was hospitalized on Feb. 1 and was later confirmed to be infected with H7N9, a subtype of influenza A virus, the CDC said, adding that the patient is under intensive care and remains unconscious.
The CDC said that the period from November to May each year is the peak season for H7N9 infections in China. It warned Taiwanese nationals in China or those planning to visit the mainland to take proper precautions, pay greater attention to personal hygiene and avoid visiting live poultry markets or coming into contact with live birds.
Since October last year, China has reported 261 H7N9 cases, mostly in the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui and Guangdong, the CDC said. The number of confirmed cases from October 2016 to now was the highest in China since the virus was first found to have infected a human in 2013, it added.
CDC Deputy Director General Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞) said that H7N9 infections in humans are not easy to identify in the early stage. The infection is often confirmed after patients have become more severely ill, such as when they suffer from pneumonia, Lo said.
The fatality rate for H7N9 bird flu is relatively high at between 30-40 percent, he said.
Since 2013, Taiwan has reported five confirmed cases of human infection of H7N9 and all of them were imported cases from China, the CDC said.
(By Elaine Hou and Chang Ming-huan)