December 10, 2008

First bird flu outbreak in six years in Hong Kong


Up to 60 chickens were tested to have died from the avian influenza on a licensed farm in Hong Kong, triggering fears that other vaccinated chickens are also infected.


More than 80,000 chickens will be culled in Hong Kong after bird flu was found in a poultry farm, health authorities said Tuesday (Dec 9). The authorities also pointed out that this is the first outbreak in a farm in nearly six years.


Health secretary York Chow has confirmed that the 60 dead chickens did die from the H5N1 virus.

All chickens within a three-kilometre radius of the farm would be slaughtered.
Local farms would also not be allowed to sell chickens and eggs for 21 days while chicken imports would be banned for the same period.
Infectious disease expert Lo Wing-lok warned that the outbreak could turn into a crisis if the authorities fail to identify the source of the virus soon. He said the outbreak is "serious" as it is not just an isolated case of one or two wild birds but took place on a licensed farm with a large number of chickens. He added that the virus might have already mutated.

Earlier this year, Hong Kong had announced plans to phase out the sale of live chickens, a popular practice in the southern Chinese city, after the H5N1 virus was identified in samples taken from four street markets in the city. However, the move was strongly opposed by chicken traders and farmers, who said consumers still want to buy freshly-killed birds and not imported frozen chickens.

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