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Saturday, 6 April, 2002, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Bird flu sparks Hong Kong slaughter
Hong Kong market
Avian flu has plagued Hong Kong chicken markets
Health officials in Hong Kong have begun killing 30,000 chickens after another outbreak of bird flu.

Hundreds of thousands more are due to be inoculated as a precautionary measure.

A government spokeswoman said the strain of flu was different to the one which killed six people in Hong Kong in 1997.

Hong Kong has suffered three major bird flu outbreaks in the last five years. Nearly 900,000 chickens were killed in February because of an outbreak of the disease.

Deadly virus

The latest cull follows the detection of the H5 bird flu virus in two farms in the Pak Sha district of the New Territories.

Hong Kong food safety workers
Over a million birds were slaughtered last year
Dozens of health workers dressed in white surgical gowns arrived at the farms on Saturday to destroy and hygienically dispose of the birds.

The virus is believed to have already killed more than 200 chickens at the infected farms.

But it is different from the H5N1 strain that killed six people in 1997, and a government spokeswoman said: "So far there is no indication to show that this strain will endanger humans".

Vaccination programme

The government has also launched a vaccination programme which is due to start next week.

Approximately 400,000 birds in 21 other poultry farms in the same district will be inoculated against the disease.

"We think vaccination will help prevent the virus from further circulating in the area," said Dr Liu Kwei-kin, deputy director of Hong Kong's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation.

The recent avian flu outbreaks have prompted strong public criticism of the government.

We can't wipe out the virus - it exists in the environment. But we can prevent it from infecting our farms

Dr Liu Kwei-kin
In 1997 and again last year, the territory's entire chicken population of over one million birds was slaughtered.

About 860,000 birds were killed in the latest outbreak this February.

"We can't wipe out the virus - it exists in the environment. But we can prevent it from infecting our farms," said Dr Liu.

He also assured Hong Kong consumers that chickens injected with the vaccine were safe to eat.

"The vaccine is not dangerous to humans and is safe for (human) consumption. It should not affect the taste of chicken nor the texture," he said.

See also:

03 Apr 02 | Business
Fowl flu takes nuggets off the menu
17 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Hong Kong bird flu spreads
03 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Hong Kong slaughters 100,000 chickens
06 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Hong Kong seals off chicken farms
19 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Hong Kong battles bird flu
18 May 01 | A-B
Avian flu
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