Lack of poultry separation is weak link

HONG KONG - Admitting that Hong Kong's "weakest link" in combating avian flu is the slow pace of separating poultry from humans, the health chief said that a regional slaughtering scheme will begin coming on line in late 2007.

Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow was responding Wednesday to criticism by medical sector legislator Kwok Ka-ki, who warned the slow progress in implementing the segregation policy is putting Hong Kong in a precarious position.

"We cannot get rid of the shadow of a pandemic," Kwok said during a motion debate on measures to prevent bird flu. "More than a health issue, avian flu is a test of risk management and governance."

Because it encourages contact between the public and potentially sick birds, Chow said permitting live chickens to be sold in markets is a problem.

Since the 1997 Hong Kong outbreak, which killed 6 people and resulted in the culling of more than two million birds, the government has been discussing centralizing slaughtering but has been opposed by poultry sellers.

"Compared with other advanced countries, our weakest link is the way we deal with the separation of poultry and humans ... this is the only major problem we are facing," Chow said.

Source: The Standard
calendar icon 1 December 2005
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