H7N9 upgraded to class 5 disease in Taiwan

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Taipei (The China Post/ANN) - Taiwan's Department of Health (DOH) announced yesterday that H7N9 influenza has been listed as a Category V Notifiable Infectious Disease given the number of cases of the virus reported in mainland China.

The DOH also said that a Central Epidemic Command Center for H7N9 influenza has been established in order to closely monitor the situation in Taiwan.

There have so far been nine confirmed H7N9 influenza cases reported in China, including three fatalities and four people in critical condition.

Chang Feng-yih, director-general of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said that listing H7N9 influenza as a Category V Notifiable Infectious Disease was to ensure effective risk communication and a rapid response to the situation.

"The epidemic prevention in Taiwan has been raised to Level 3 according to the classification of the World Health Organization," said Chang, "and so far there have been no confirmed H7N9 cases reported in Taiwan."

"According to information that I received," Chang said, "Taiwan is the first country to list H7N9 influenza as a notifiable infectious disease."

According to the DOH, when doctors discover a patient meets the definition of a Category V Notifiable Infectious Disease, doctors have to report to health authorities within 24 hours and request the patient receive isolated medical treatment. If the patient passes away, the remains of the patient must be cremated within 24 hours.

Epidemic prevention

CDC Deputy Director-General Chou Chih-hau said that the CDC has reinforced quarantine activities at airports and seaports and strengthened fever screening of travelers arriving from China, especially Jiangsu, Anhui, Shanghai and Nanjing where confirmed H7N9 cases were reported. "The CDC has also notified the health care sector to stay vigilant against H7N9 influenza," Chou said, "and report patients that meet the case definition of H7N9 influenza."

"There are 22 hospitals nationwide listed (as disease control centres) with 471 isolation wards available to handle a possible outbreak of H7N9," said Chou.

Chou also said that even though H5N1 and H7N9 are similar viruses, the reason why H7N9 influenza has been listed as a Category V Notifiable Infectious Disease is that medical experts so far do not know much about H7N9 and the government will have more flexibility to handle any situation caused by a Category V Notifiable Infectious Disease.

Travelers included in H7N9 monitoring system

Deputy Health Department Director Lin Tzou-yien said that all the quarantine activities conducted at airports and seaports are the same for visitors from China and Taiwanese citizens who return from China.

"However, the incubation period for H7N9 influenza is seven days," Lin said, "so people, including international travelers, still have to monitor their own health conditions for any symptoms that meet the definition of H7N9 influenza."

Lin said that the DOH has been educating managers of group-guided tours to keep an eye on the health conditions of travelers that they are responsible for. If any travelers show symptoms associated with H7N9 influenza, tour managers should immediately take the travelers to a hospital.

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