Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hong Kong confirms H5N1 bird flu at chicken farm

Thursday December 11, 2008

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong on Thursday confirmed an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu on a chicken farm.

Hong Kong, a former British colony which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, has culled 65,000 chickens in the affected farm since Tuesday after it was found that dozens of chickens on the farm had died from the H5 virus.

"It has been confirmed as H5N1," said a government spokeswoman citing an Assistant Director of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department Thomas Sit.

Hong Kong's health chief said the outbreak likely came from an external source, while pledging to investigate claims that smuggled eggs from mainland China might be the cause.

Since the H5N1 virus resurfaced in Asia in 2003, it has killed more than 200 people in a dozen countries, according to the World Health Organisation.

Experts fear the constantly mutating H5N1 virus could change into a form easily transmitted from person to person. This could sweep the world, killing millions.

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