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June 4, 2004

 

 

Hong Kong Still At Risk Of Avian Flu

 

Hong Kong health experts warned Thursday that the city was still at risk of a deadly avian flu outbreak because consumers continued to buy live poultry from markets.

 

Contact with live chickens and ducks spread the disease through much of Asia earlier this year. At least 24 people in Thailand and Vietnam were killed, leading to the cull of millions of birds.

 

Hong Kong managed to prevent a local outbreak by banning live poultry imports and encouraging consumers to buy frozen or chilled meat.

 

With the gradual lifting of the ban, a Hong Kong University poll has found shoppers still buying live birds. Despite consumers understanding the risks involved, this situation persists and experts are worried.

 

"There is real and not insignificant risk of exposure from live birds and animal retail sales," Gabriel Leung, the university's professor of community medicine said.

 

The poll found 78 per cent of the 986 respondents still bought live chickens.

 

Although 86 per cent of people believed market practices should change, nearly a quarter admitted touching the birds before buying. Purchasing live chickens is part of the culture in Hong Kong.

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