Hong Kong's top health official said here Wednesday the risk of human cases of avian influenza in Hong Kong is low thanks to the city's safeguards against the disease following a bird flu outbreak at a duck farm in neighboring Guangdong Province.
Dr. York Chow, Secretary for Food and Health, said the outbreak involves only one farm in Xinhui City, which is far from Hong Kong. However, as there is a poultry farm supplying Hong Kong within 13 km of the outbreak, exports from the facility were suspended for three weeks from Tuesday.
Meanwhile, excrement samples collected in two live poultry markets in Hong Kong were tested positive for the deadly avian flu of H5N1 virus early in June, prompting the culling of all live poultry and trading suspension of poultry products in the city.
Dr. Chow said Hong Kong's surveillance system and vigilance greatly hinders the spread of bird flu to humans, so the risk posed to the city by the latest outbreak in neighboring Guangdong Province is low.
He said health authorities in the Chinese mainland are examining whether there has been any changes to the virus or the ducks' immunity.
"If we do not find any human cases by the end of next Wednesday we will be quite confident there is no human spread," Dr. Chow said.
"We are more worried about the subsequent arrangement, whether the existing chickens in the farms and those coming into the market will pose a threat. If that is the case I think we have to have more stringent measures for the markets so we can safeguard poultry workers as well as the public."
(Xinhua News Agency June 19, 2008)