Health officials in Taiwan today reported the first human case of the new bird flu strain seen outside China.

Although the spread of the flu was expected, the report marks a new phase in the spread of the disease.

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Taiwan's equivalent to the US CDC, confirmed that a 53-year-old male Taiwanese citizen was stricken with the H7N9 avian influenze. The man was working in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China before he contracted the disease.

According to the CECC press release, the man is ucrrently in severe condition, and is being treated in a quarantined, "negative-pressure" room. The man initially developed symptoms as far back as April 12th, and was hospitalized on April 16th. When he did not get better, medical officials began to suspect bird flu, and the patient was isolated on April 20th.

On the morning of April 24, lab technicians confirmed that the H7N9 virus was present in his saliva.

The CECC has acquired a list of 139 people who have come in contact with the contaminated man, and are following up to hopefully limit the spread of the dangerous disease.

The new influenza strain, which has killed 22 people since March, is one of the most deadly strains known.

"This is one of the most lethal influenza viruses we have seen so far," said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Assistant Director-General for Health Security. "We are at the beginning of our understanding of this virus."

Normally, the A Hz influenza viruses circulate amongst bird populations. The new strain, A(H7N9), has only recently made the jump to human hosts.

To prevent infection from the influenza virus, doctors recommend practicing good hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene. Hands should be washed before, during, and after food preparation, after handling animals or animal waste, after using the toilet, and when caring for the sick.

In areas experiencing outbreaks, meat products can be safely consumed, provided they are properly cooked.