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Asia on guard as Taiwan reports first bird flu case

Updated: Apr 25, 2013, 18:09 PM IST

Taipei: Asian countries today urged renewed vigilance against a spread of H7N9 bird flu after Taiwan reported a case of the deadly strain, the world`s first outside mainland China.

The self-governing island urged its residents to take "enhanced precautions" when visiting China -- placing Shanghai, Beijing and five Chinese provinces on particular alert for travellers after at least 22 deaths were confirmed there.

Taiwan`s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed on Wednesday that a 53-year-old Taiwanese man, who had been working in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou, showed symptoms three days after returning home via Shanghai on April 9.

The man, who was infected in China, has been hospitalised since April 16 and is in a serious but stable condition, it said.

There have been 108 confirmed cases of human infection with H7N9 avian influenza in China, including the 22 deaths, figures from Chinese authorities and the World Health Organization show.

The WHO maintained its global advisory for combating the bird flu, urging against contact with live poultry but not recommending any restrictions against travel to China.

The "enhanced precautions" urged by Taiwan`s CDC were in line with WHO advice, counselling people to avoid going to poultry markets, stay away from anyone with a fever and eat only thoroughly cooked bird meat and eggs.

WHO experts said on Wednesday that H7N9 was a particularly lethal influenza virus but that there was no proof yet of sustained transmission between humans.

Asian nations stressed they had measures in place, pioneered during a deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) a decade ago, but appealed to their citizens to heed the WHO guidelines in light of the Taiwan case.

"Our healthcare institutions remain on heightened alert and are prepared for the eventuality of a possible case, especially given today`s globalised travel patterns," Singapore`s health ministry said in a statement.
Many Asian countries including China`s neighbours Japan and South Korea are anticipating an influx of Chinese tourists during next week over the Labour Day holiday.

Japan`s foreign ministry reissued a travel advisory to citizens planning to visit China or Taiwan, warning them to stay away from bird farms and wear masks in crowded areas.

Reviving a SARS-era precaution, Japan has been checking inbound travellers with body temperature monitors as it gears up for the "Golden Week" spring vacation starting next week.