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Starting Tomorrow Hong Kong Will Slaughter All 1

December 29, 1997

Starting Tomorrow Hong Kong Will Slaughter All 1.2 Million Chickens To Prevent Spread of `Bird Flu’By KHARK SINGH

HONG KONG (AP) _ The Hong Kong government on Monday will begin gassing to death 1.2 million chickens in a desperate move to prevent the spread of a mysterious bird flu that has killed four people.

Geese and other birds kept alongside chickens at live-poultry markets also will be killed because cross-infection cannot be ruled out, said Stephen Ip, secretary for economic services.

The birds will be given carbon dioxide, which gradually suffocates them. Their remains will be buried in three massive landfills, Ip told a news conference Sunday.

Farmers at Hong Kong’s 199 chicken and mixed-poultry farms will be compensated for their losses, officials at the Agriculture and Fisheries Department said.

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

The government also confirmed a 60-year-old woman who died last Tuesday was discovered to have the flu. That brought the number of confirmed cases to 12, including four deaths. The number of suspected cases was lowered to eight.

The decision to kill all chickens came after health authorities declared a chicken farm and part of Hong Kong’s largest poultry market as infected areas.

A government 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.

The market used to sell more than a third of the 75,000 chickens imported into Hong Kong daily from China. Hong Kong halted the chicken shipments from China last week, pending further 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, local television reported.

On Saturday, health officials said blood tests have shown that some humans apparently can develop immunity to the virus. Doctors have discovered antibodies to the virus in the blood of nine people tested who never became severely sick. The presence of antibodies means a person has been exposed to the virus and has developed resistance.

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.

The tests also indicate that the virus can be transmitted from human to human, instead of just through birds, said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, an American medical expert from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, which analyzed the blood samples.

Victims stricken with the bird flu show the same symptoms as those suffering from 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 his country’s health and foreign affairs departments Sunday to closely monitor bird flu cases to prevent the disease from spreading to the Philippines.

Two Filipino workers living in Hong Kong have been confirmed to have contracted the flu and have been hospitalized, a statement issued by Ramos’ office said.

Update hourly