Hong Kong prepares for possible bird flu pandemic

Hong Kong is preparing for a possible bird flu pandemic by giving health officials the power to stop people suspected of having bird flu from leaving the city, the government said Wednesday. The new health regulations, which take effect on Friday, will empower public officers to stop and detain suspected individuals who insist on leaving Chinese territory, the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau said in a statement.

Authorized officers will also be empowered to conduct temperature checks and medical examinations of travelers leaving or arriving in Hong Kong at the city's borders, the statement said.

Hong Kong has been spared from the latest round of bird flu cases in Asia, but it is wary of diseases spreading here from the neighboring mainland.

In 2003, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, spread from across the border and killed 299 people here. Experts fear that the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form that can easily be passed from human to human, sparking a pandemic, reports the AP. I.L.

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