Taiwan has reported the first H7N9 bird flu case outside of mainland China. A 53-year-old businessman is in serious condition in the hospital.
The man recently returned from the Chinese city of Suzhou, according to health officials. China already has 108 confirmed cases of the new bird flu strain since it appeared in March.
The first bird flu case outside China is likely worrying to experts, who are still trying to learn more about the deadly H7N9 strain. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already said that the new strain appears to spread more easily from birds to humans than it does from human to human contact.
WHO flu expert Dr. Keji Fukuda stated at a news conference in Beijing, where new cases were reported last week, “This is definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses we have seen so far. When we look at influenza viruses this is an unusually dangerous virus.”
Fukuda added that the WHO team has just started its investigation into how the H7N9 virus made the jump from birds to humans. He added that, based on the evidence, “this virus is more easily transmissible from poultry to humans than H5N1.” H5N1 is the previous strain spread in 2003.
Since the H5N1 strain was discovered 10 years ago, it has killed 360 people worldwide. Most of those who died came into contact with infected birds.
WHO officials added that they are continuing to monitor the new virus strain closely to see if it could spark a global pandemic. However, there is little evidence so far that it could spread easily between humans. Of the now 103 confirmed bird flu cases, 22 people have died.