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Author Topic: Live chicken sales resume in Hong Kong after bird flu outbreak  (Read 676 times)
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« on: December 28, 2008, 11:35:23 PM »

Hong Kong - Live chicken sales are to resume in Hong Kong, three weeks after a bird flu outbreak that led to the slaughter of tens of thousands of birds, officials said Monday.

Imports of live chickens from mainland China will restart and markets will be able to sell live poultry from Tuesday morning, the territory's government announced.

The resumption of live chicken sales comes after the most severe bird flu scare to hit the city of 6.9 million in recent years, triggered by an outbreak on a chicken farm on December 9.

However, the appetite of Hong Kong families for live chickens is likely to be tested by the outbreak, which again raised fears over the safety of freshly-killed poultry.

The lifting of the ban on the import and sale of live chickens comes weeks ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday in January. Chicken is the traditional dish for family parties.

Some 75,000 chickens were culled in early December at a farm in the Yuen Long district, where the outbreak of the deadly virus was detected in 200 dead birds and also at a nearby wholesale market.

The deaths were caused by the H5N1 strain of the virus that jumps more easily from chickens to humans and has been responsible for 246 deaths worldwide since 2003, according to World Health Organization statistics.

Intensive checks have been conducted since the outbreak by health officials who say the risk of the virus spreading has been eliminated and it has not spread to other farms.

The sight of workers in protective clothing and face masks culling tens of thousands of birds in the run-up to the Christmas holiday evoked memories of previous major bird flu outbreaks in Hong Kong.

Six people died and 12 others were infected in an outbreak of bird flu in Hong Kong in 1997 that led to the culling of 1.2 million birds. Millions more birds were slaughtered in outbreaks in 2001 and 2002.

Hong Kong subsequently implemented strict controls on markets and chicken imports and escaped any human infections when bird flu swept the region in 2006.

Experts have repeatedly warned that the H5N1 strain of bird flu threatens a global pandemic if it mutates into a form that is more easily transmitted between humans.
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