First bird flu case identified outside of China, in Taiwan

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Taiwan's Center for Disease Control staff stand at the entrance of Sungshan Airport in Taipei on April 4, 2013. Taiwan enhanced its level of alert against bird flu and set up a contingency center after China's report of a new strain of avian influenza.

Credit:

Sam Yeh

A 53-year-old Taiwanese man has been diagnosed with the deadly H7N9 bird flu virus, which he appears to have contracted while traveling to the Chinese city of Suzhou. His is the first case recorded outside of mainland China.

Currently in serious condition in a Taiwanese hospital, Bloomberg reports that the man developed H7N9 three days after he returned home from China. During those first 72 hours, the man came into contact with at least 139 people, according to CDC figures.

Read more from GlobalPost: China: bird flu cases now at 104

The man hadn't been near with poultry or uncooked chicken, noted Taiwanese Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta to the BBC. Taiwan's government is continuing to ramp up health pressures meant to prevent more H7N9 cases jumping the ocean from China.

Since H7N9 first burst onto the scene in China in March, it has killed at least 22, while 108 cases have been confirmed by the World Health Organization, largely in Shanghai and nearby areas.

No evidence has yet been recorded of H7N9 spreading from human to human, the WHO. Human-to-human transmission is the most feared scenario, as it could lead to a dangerous pandemic of the virus.

However, it's not entirely clear that human-to-human transmission isn't already happening, Ian Mackay, an associate professor of clinical virology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, told Bloomberg.

“There is also no publicly available data to indicate that H7N9 is not easily transmitted via a human-to-human route,” said Mackay to Bloomberg. “If there is any tiny upside to this news tonight, it’s that perhaps we will see this testing conducted.”

Cambodia is also currently suffering from an outbreak of bird flu, though it's the the H5N1 strain. So far that virus has killed eight people in the small Southeast Asian nation in 2013 alone.