The source of a domestic COVID-19 infection reported in Taiwan this week has been confirmed as originating in a laboratory and not the result of community infection, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Saturday.
The case, Taiwan's first domestic COVID-19 case in over a month, involves a woman in her 20s who worked until early December in a laboratory at the Genomics Research Center at Academia Sinica in Taipei's Nangang District.
She was infected with the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, and genome sequencing results indicated that it was identical to a Delta variant virus supplied to the lab by Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for research, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (???) said at a CECC press briefing.
It differs from any other Delta types found in domestic COVID-19 cases from June to September, Chen said, hence ruling out the likelihood that the woman was infected through community transmission.
Currently, about 700 contacts linked to the domestic case have tested negative for the disease.
According to the CECC, the woman said she had been bitten by a COVID-19-infected lab mouse on Oct. 15 and tested negative that same day after taking a rapid test. On Nov. 19, she was bitten by another infected mouse but took no test.
Authorities are currently investigating how she became infected at the lab, Chen said, indicating that a low viral load of the virus had also be found on the surfaces of tables and doorknobs in the lab.
Academia Sinica's Academic Affairs and Instrument Service director Chen Chien-chang (???) said the mouse that bit the woman in November was infected with the Alpha variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
That same day, two of her co-workers at the lab were doing research on another mouse infected with a Delta variant of the virus, Chen said.
It is possible that an error occurred during the handling of the mice, leading to cross-infection, he explained.
The three are now in quarantine, the health minister said, adding that the investigation will take some time, although he also declined to rule out that the woman could have become infected after leaving the lab area, removing her protective gear and changing into her clothes.
According to Academia Sinica President James Liao (???), at the time the lab was conducting experiments to test the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines supplied by the CDC.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel