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Cablegate: Hong Kong Restricts Poultry Imports Following

VZCZCXRO1688
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHHK #2443/01 2620906
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 190906Z SEP 07
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2968
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 1458
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK PRIORITY 0470
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU PRIORITY 1189
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU PRIORITY 0868
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI PRIORITY
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG PRIORITY 3641
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA PRIORITY
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HONG KONG 002443

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE PASS TO EAP/CM, AIAG, OES/IHA, MED

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO AMED AMGT CASC EAGR PINR KFLU CH HK
SUBJECT: HONG KONG RESTRICTS POULTRY IMPORTS FOLLOWING
SOUTH CHINA H5N1 OUTBREAK

REF: GUANGZHOU 1048

1. (SBU) Summary. The Hong Kong Special Administrative
Region Government (HKSARG) suspended all imports of live
poultry and birds, chicks, eggs, and meat originating from
the Panyu District, Guangdong Province, Southern China
following the confirmation of an H5N1 virus outbreak in Panyu
duck farms. HKSARG immediately announced eight precautionary
measures, including, banning poultry products from farms
within a 24km radius of the outbreak epicenter in Panyu
District for a three-week period, and suspending duck and
goose meat and egg imports from the entire Guangdong Province
for one week. Hong Kong's planned expanded import of 70,000
live chickens for the September 25 Mid-Autumn Festival have
been canceled (daily imports are normally capped at 20,000
birds). Joint inspection and daily consultations highlight
Hong Kong and Guangdong Province cooperation efforts in
response to the outbreak. The HKSARG reports that no H5N1
has been detected within its borders. HKSARG Food and Health
Secretary York Chow believes the Panyu incident to be

SIPDIS
isolated, but notes that changes in conditions would lead to
adjustments in HKSARG's response. Hong Kong University's
Professor Guan Yi says this outbreak is "an occasional event"
and "no big issue," despite broad media attention. End
Summary.

2. (U) On September 17, the HKSARG announced eight
precautionary measures to protect public health following PRC
Ministry of Agriculture confirmation of an outbreak of H5N1
virus in Guangdong Province, Panyu District's duck farms.
These measures include:
--Immediate suspension of imports of all live poultry and
birds, poultry eggs, and chilled and frozen meat from all
farms within a 24km radius of Xinzao, the city at the
outbreak center in Panyu District, for 21 days.
--Immediate suspension of imports of chilled and frozen ducks
and geese, and duck and goose eggs from Guangdong Province,
for one week.
--Daily communication with the mainland Ministry of
Agriculture and the Guangdong Entry-Exit Inspection and
Quarantine Bureau (GDCIQ) to understand the progress of the
epidemic and control measures underway.
--Cancellation of 70,000 live chicken imports from the
Mainland for the Mid-Autumn Festival (September 25).
--Enhanced inspection and surveillance of hygiene conditions
in all local live poultry farms, as well as wholesale and
retail markets by the FEHD and the Hong Kong Agriculture,
Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).
--Deterrence of illegal import of poultry and birds to Hong
Kong by AFCD, FEHD, Customs and Excise Department, the
Police, and their mainland counterparts, to prevent an
increase in the risk of avian influenza outbreak brought in
by poultry and birds that have not undergone inspection and
quarantine.
--Broadcast health messages at immigration control points and
distribution of health advice leaflets.

3. (U) HKSARG's September 17 precautionary measures differ
from the HKSARG's standard outbreak response that would have
banned all poultry imports from the entire Guangdong Province
for a three-month period. Secretary for Food and Health York
Chow explained that FEHD revised its procedures, since it
believes that the outbreak is an isolated incident, with no
new outbreak findings since the September 14 cull, and the
fact that ducks are a natural host of H5N1. (Note: Professor
Joseph Sung, Director of the Center for Emerging Infectious
Diseases, Chinese University of Hong Kong, commented that it
was rare to see an outbreak of H5N1 among ducks because the
immunity system of ducks is different from that of chickens.
Ducks will carry the virus and will usually not die when
infected by avian influenza. He did not rule out that the
virus may have mutated. End note.) As a precaution,
Secretary Chow noted that the quarantine area has been

SIPDIS
established at three times the international practice of 8km.

4. (U) Hong Kong's AFCD is stepping up its monitoring of
local farms, with an average daily production of 25,000
birds, and warned farmers to take safety measures seriously,
while Secretary Chow is encouraging the public "not to worry

HONG KONG 00002443 002 OF 002


too much, but to stay alert and observe good personal and
environmental hygiene."

5. (U) In response to government actions to date, The H5N1
Concern Group, a Hong Kong-based pressure group, is urging
the HKSARG to "ban all live poultry from the mainland for 21
days, or in particular from the entire Guangdong Province."
Group leader, Dr. Lo Wing-lok said, "Because the situation is
so serious, so unclear, the government cannot define the
scale of the problem," and this calls for more stringent
measures.

6. (SBU) Professor Guan Yi, Director, State Laboratory of
Infectious Diseases at Hong Kong University, canceled his
trip to the U.S. this week to monitor this outbreak. He
indicated that this outbreak was not so unusual but media
attention had raised public concerns. He went on to say that
there is "no need to be over-sensitive" regarding this event,
that it did not appear that the H5N1 virus had mutated, and
it was "no big issue." He committed to updating post
promptly should the situation change. AFCD Assistant
Director for Inspection and Quarantine, Dr. Thomas Sit, said
these outbreaks "are a fact of life, especially in
waterfowl," and conveyed every confidence in the HKSARG
ability to manage the situation.

7. (SBU) There are 94 registered poultry farms in Guangdong
Province supplying live poultry to Hong Kong, of which twenty
are affected by the precautionary measures. Despite the
relatively limited impact on supply, FAS Attache reports that
wholesale prices for chicken have jumped approximately 18
percent in the last two days.

Macau Suspends Imports
-----------------------

8. (U) The Macau Special Administrative Region Government
(MSARG) announced on September 18 a ban on the import of
poultry and related products from the area within 8km of
Panyu District for the next 21 days. Currently, Macau does
not import any products from the outbreak region, only
importing from other parts of Guangdong Province (Zhuhai,
Zhongshan, Hubei and Doumen), their poultry supply will
remain constant. Mr. Neng Peng-in, member of the Board of
Governors at the Macau Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau,
indicated that the Bureau had hired experts from oversees to
conduct tests on migratory birds and poultry sold in the
marketplace over the last eight months. The results showed
no avian influenza virus.
Cunningham

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