Hong Kong is ready to kill all chickens to stop bird flu

Hong Kong will slaughter all chickens and ban poultry farming if bird flu outbreaks are confirmed at two poultry farms, a senior health official affirmed Monday.

The tough measures underscored the densely populated city's concern about the threat of bird flu, which has been spreading across its border in mainland China.

Eddy Chan, deputy secretary for health, welfare and food, told lawmakers that if two separate farms confirm outbreaks of the deadly H5N1 strain of the disease, the government will cull all of the poultry in the territory.

"If infections happen at a second farm, it shows that the virus is already spreading. So we can't wait for it to happen in a third farm before taking action," Chan told.

The territory's farms are raising nearly 3 million poultry, mainly chickens and a small number of ducks and pigeons.

Chan added that all of Hong Kong's 2,260 local poultry farms would be closed for good if outbreaks are reported at two farms.

Hong Kong recorded the first known instances of human infection with H5N1 in 1997, when the virus infected 18 people and killed six of them in the territory, according to the World Health Organization.

However, so far Hong Kong has been spared in the wave of infections that began in Asia in late 2003.

Health experts have warned that the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form that can be easily transmitted between humans, possibly causing a global pandemic that could kill millions.

China has recently reported three outbreaks among birds but no human deaths, the AP reports.

Photo: AFP