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Sunday, December 28, 1997 Published at 15:51 GMT


Hong Kong

A mass slaughter of more than a million chickens is to take place in Hong Kong in an attempt to stop a virulent new form of influenza, known as bird flu. The chickens from about 1,000 markets and stalls will be killed and burned, beginning on Monday. JILL MCGIVERING reports from Hong Kong:

The slaughter of an estimated 1.25 million chickens in Hong Kong will begin on Monday and is expected to take about 24 hours.

As well as chickens on local farms, all live poultry in wholesale markets and retail stores will also be killed, including those in outlying areas of Hong Kong raised by smallholders for their own consumption.

The decision was taken after a local farm and a wholesale market were declared infected areas early on Sunday.

Tests were carried out there after the deaths of many chickens were reported and the bird flu virus, H5N1, was found to be present.

Officials said the slaughter would be followed by a comprehensive cleaning operation.

Imports of poultry to Hong Kong will be suspended until the disinfecting has been carried out.

Future live imports of chicken from mainland China will be subject to new health tests, introduced by the authorities as a result of the flu scare. Health officials also announced that the number of confirmed cases of so-called bird flu has now risen to twelve.

Eight more people are listed as suspected cases. Four people have died since the flu was identified in August.

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