Taiwan's health authorities on Wednesday reported the island's first confirmed case of swine flu, in an Australian doctor who arrived by plane from Hong Kong earlier in the week.
The 52-year-old cruise ship doctor arrived at Taipei airport on Monday and was responding well to treatment, said Shih Wen-yi, a spokesman from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
AdvertisementThe man was found to be running a fever after arriving from New York via Hong Kong late Monday and was sent to hospital for testing, Shih said.
He was likely to have contracted swine flu, or A(H1N1) influenza as it is officially known, aboard a cruise ship, he added.
"We urge the public not to panic and the passengers aboard the flight to contact the CDC for testing," he said.
Health authorities have tracked down 23 of the 61 people who sat nearest the man on the Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong for screening.
According to the CDC, the doctor, who practises in Taiwan, had been in the United States between February and May. Taoyuan General Hospital identified him as a Taiwan-based Australian.
"He started to feel sick when he was about to arrive in Taiwan. Most of his symptoms have been alleviated after treatment," hospital spokesman Wang Wei-jie told AFP.
Taiwan's health minister, Yeh Chin-chuan, currently in Geneva attending the World Health Organization's annual meeting, was planning to cut short his visit following the island's first confirmed case, local reports said.
"The health department is prepared so the public can rest assured. The flu's mortality rate is low, unlike SARS," Yeh said in Geneva, referring to the Severe Acute Respiratory Disease that hit mostly Asian countries in 2003.
Yeh, a public health expert, is best known for leading Taipei through the SARS crisis as the capital's deputy mayor.
Meanwhile, former health minister Twu Shiing-jer stirred up an outcry when he called the flu case "the best gift" for the first anniversary of President Ma Ying-jeou's inauguration.
Twu, now a lawmaker with the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, later explained that it would be a gift to Ma if his government managed to curb the spread of swine flu.
The virus has claimed about 79 lives worldwide, according to the WHO.
The UN agency has reported some 9,830 infections in 40 countries.