Hong Kong Flu Update

Date: Sat, 3 Jan 1998
From: CDPC-mail; Dr. James Chin
Source: Promed Mailing List

A senior health official warned Saturday that geese, ducks and other birds may have to be slaughtered if the recent mass killing of chickens fails to wipe out the so-called "bird flu." Another person -- a 19-year-old woman -- was found to have bird flu, the government said, raising the number of confirmed cases to 16. Four people have died. The woman was hospitalized in critical condition.

Dr. Margaret Chan, director of health, said the killing of Hong Kong's 1.3 million chickens was the first step in wiping out the H5N1 virus that has killed four people. Officials may have to look beyond chickens and see if the virus exists in geese, ducks and the "non-chicken population," she said.

On Friday, officials admitted they did a sloppy job in the mass gassing of the chickens. Bedraggled birds somehow survived the slaughter, and dogs were seen scampering off with carcasses. Scientists will test rats, cats and dogs to see whether animals picked up the virus from chewing on chicken carcasses intended for burial. Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa has said shortages of staff and equipment hindered the government's effort this week to stop the mysterious spread of the flu, which typically strikes poultry, to humans.

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