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Hong Kong traders may have ignored bird flu warning signs: govt

by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) June 12, 2008
Poultry traders in Hong Kong may have failed to promptly alert the authorities to a possible bird flu outbreak, the city's health secretary said on Thursday, following a mass cull of chickens.

An investigation team was now trying to identify why the H5N1 virus had gone undetected despite spreading to four wet markets across the territory, said York Chow, secretary for health, welfare, and food.

"It is possible that we were not told about these cases, which resulted in a delay to our investigation," he told local broadcaster RTHK.

Live poultry traders are required to immediately report any dead chickens to authorities.

On Wednesday, the authorities culled 2,900 chickens in 470 live poultry shops, after identifying the virus in samples taken from four wet markets in the southern Chinese city.

But no infected cases had been found among humans or in local chicken farms, according to the government.

The health chief said they had not found any mutation in the virus and there was no sign that the chickens' immunity system against the flu had changed.

The government is also investigating the conditions of registered farms in mainland China, the major source of chicken for Hong Kong, an agriculture department spokeswoman told AFP.

Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at University of Hong Kong, said it was time for a thorough review of the monitoring system on bird flu cases.

"We are now talking about not only one, but four wet markets with infected chickens. It means that our monitoring system has failed," he told RTHK.

"In recent years, the number of problem chicken reported each day has been shockingly low. We believe there are people who are unwilling to hand over the potentially infected chickens to the authorities," he said.

Hong Kong was the scene of the world's first reported major bird flu outbreak among humans in 1997, when six people died.

The H5N1 strain has killed more than 240 people and ravaged poultry flocks worldwide since 2003, according to the World Health Organisation.

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Hong Kong culls all live poultry in markets after bird flu outbreak
Hong Kong (AFP) June 11, 2008
Hong Kong said Wednesday it would slaughter all live poultry in markets and shops around the city following a fresh outbreak of bird flu.

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