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Hong Kong Government Announces It Will Slaughter All Chickens in Drastic Move To Prevent

December 28, 1997

Hong Kong Government Announces It Will Slaughter All Chickens in Drastic Move To Prevent Spread of `Bird Flu’By KHARK SINGH

HONG KONG (AP) _ The Hong Kong government announced Sunday it will slaughter all chickens in the territory in a drastic move to prevent the spread of a mysterious bird flu that has killed four people.

The slaughter of the estimated 1.2 million chickens will begin Monday, Stephen Ip, secretary for economic services, said at a news conference.

Ip said the birds then will be buried in three massive landfills. He said the killing was necessary because all the birds were being kept together at the markets and farms and cross-infection could not be ruled out.

Dr. Margaret Chan, director of health, said there was no indication of an epidemic of the virus in Hong Kong, and that it was safe to eat cooked poultry.

The government also reported that a 60-year-old woman, who died last Tuesday, was discovered to have the flu, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 12. It lowered the number of suspected cases to eight after a 3-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy were removed from the suspect list.

The government’s action came after health authorities declared a chicken farm and part of Hong Kong’s largest poultry market as infected areas after some chickens were found to have the virus.

A statement said blood samples taken from chickens from the Yuen Long farm near the border with China tested positive for the H5NI virus.

It also said a section of the Cheung Sha Wan wholesale poultry market, the target of a massive cleanup operation earlier this month, was closed because veterinary officers found a large number of dead chickens there.

Two photographers were slightly injured in a scuffle at the market with some chicken vendors, who objected to the presence of journalists.

The Cheung Sha Wan market used to sell more than a third of the 75,000 chickens imported into Hong Kong daily from China. Hong Kong halted the shipments of chickens from China last Wednesday, pending more investigation and establishment of better testing.

Some vendors were already killing their chickens Sunday and putting them in plastic bags for collection by government workers, TV stations reported. There are 199 chicken and mixed poultry farms in Hong Kong.

Officials of the Agriculture and Fisheries Department said the chickens will be put to death by carbon dioxide, and farmers will be compensated for their losses.

On Saturday, health officials disclosed that it was possible that some people may have immunity against the virus, which was previously found only in birds and poultry.

They said medical investigators discovered antibodies to the virus in the blood of nine Hong Kong people who never became seriously ill.

Investigators tested blood from 473 people who may have been in contact with the first known victim, a 3-year-old boy who died in May, or who may have been exposed to the virus in a laboratory or hospital.

Dr. Keiji Fukuda, an American medical expert from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, which analyzed the blood samples, said the data leave open ``the question of whether there is human to human transmission.″

Doctors say that for the virus to cause a pandemic, it must first be capable of human-to-human transmission.

Victims stricken with the bird flu show the same symptoms as other kinds of flu, including fever. The virus attacks the respiratory system as well as other organs, and several of those who died had developed pneumonia.

In Manila, Philippine President Fidel Ramos directed the health and foreign affairs departments Sunday to closely monitor bird flu cases to prevent the disease from spreading to the Philippines.

A statement issued by the presidential office said a Filipino domestic, Marites Vidad, has been confirmed by Hong Kong authorities to have contracted the flu and has been hospitalized in the New Territories.

Another Filipino domestic, identified as Teresita Castulo, 25, is suspected of having contracted the flu and is comatose in a hospital in the New Territories, the statement said.

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