Hong Kong sees first bird flu case in seven years


Hong Kong : Hong Kong officials Thursday stepped up checks on markets and chicken farms after the first human case of bird flu in the city since 2003 was diagnosed.

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Tests were also conducted on chickens imported to the densely populated city of seven million from mainland China, Hong Kong Health Secretary York Chow told reporters.

A 59-year-old woman remained in hospital Thursday after falling ill with the H5N1 avian flu virus one day after returning from a holiday in China.

Tests were being conducted to determine whether the woman, who returned Nov 1 after visiting Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou, contracted the virus in China or Hong Kong.

Most chickens eaten in Hong Kong come from China but Chow said “no abnormalities” had so far been detected in heightened checks at farms in neighbouring Guangdong province that supply poultry.

“At the moment we cannot say there is an increased risk in poultry imported to Hong Kong,” the health secretary said.

Six people died and 12 others were infected in Hong Kong in the first modern case of bird flu to jump the species barrier in 1997, leading to a cull of all chickens there.

Hong Kong has since prevented any further significant local outbreaks. The last case in the city involved a father who died and whose son fell ill after a visit to China in 2003.