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Cablegate: Hong Kong H5n1 Update: New H5n1 Poultry Infection

VZCZCXRO8155
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHHM
DE RUEHHK #1061/01 1640931
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 120931Z JUN 08
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5071
INFO RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK PRIORITY 0793
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 2293
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 3775
RUEHPF/AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH PRIORITY 0819
RUEHVN/AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE PRIORITY 9647
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU PRIORITY 1310
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU PRIORITY 1239
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY PRIORITY 0337
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI PRIORITY
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG PRIORITY 3756
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI PRIORITY 4953
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA PRIORITY
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HONG KONG 001061

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/CM, CA/OCS/ACS/EAP, AIAG, OES/IHA, MED
HHS FOR OGHA - STEIGER, HICKEY
CDC ATLANTA FOR CCID AND COGH
BEIJING FOR CHRISTENSEN/GREEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO KFLU EAGR CASC AMED AMGT PINR MO HK
SUBJECT: HONG KONG H5N1 UPDATE: NEW H5N1 POULTRY INFECTION
SOURCE UNKNOWN, NO HUMAN CASES

REF: A. HONG KONG 1034
B. HONG KONG 470

1. (U) Summary: On June 11, the Hong Kong Government (HKG)
Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD)
announced additional positive test results for H5N1 virus in
live poultry in Hong Kong wet markets, bringing the total to
four markets infected to date. As a result, all poultry
sales were suspended at markets and retail shops, birds
culled, and markets disinfected. The H5N1 detected in Hong
Kong wet markets belongs to clade 2.3.4 - known previously as
the Fujian strain. While the virus has shown no signs of
mutation, the source of the virus in these chickens is not
yet known. The HKG renewed vigilance across all responsible
agencies, activating its information hotline, and expanding
inspections. Post's Avian Influenza Working Group is
actively monitoring all new developments, and Emergency
Action Plan measures and tripwires are up-to-date. End
Summary.

New Cases of H5N1 in Poultry
----------------------------

2. (U) On June 11, the HKG AFCD announced additional positive
test results for H5N1 virus in live poultry at Hong Kong wet
markets, bringing the total to four markets infected to date.
As a result, all poultry sales were suspended at markets and
retail shops, birds culled, and markets disinfected. On June
7, the HKG suspended live poultry imports for twenty-one
days, and has not ruled out an extension of this ban. Note:
Additional information on the Hong Kong poultry market will
follow septel from the Consulate's Ag Trade Office. End
note.

Fujian Strain of H5N1, But Source Still Unknown
--------------------------------------------- --

3. (U) The H5N1 detected in Hong Kong wet markets belongs to
clade 2.3.4 - known previously as the Fujian strain. The
virus has shown no signs of mutation, however the source of
the virus in these chickens is not yet known. AFCD officials
have inspected all fifty local chicken farms; all tests have
proven negative, and inspectors found no abnormalities. HKG
officials have not ruled out the possibility of smuggling
from mainland China particularly as demand for and trade in
poultry is highest during holiday periods (Note: Hong Kong
celebrated a local holiday on June 8).

HKG Preparedness
----------------

4. (U) The HKG has been at "serious-alert level" since
February's reports of two human avian influenza cases on the
mainland. Following the June 7 detection of the H5N1 virus
in Hong Kong for the first time in five years, government
bureaus have taken additional steps as follows:
--Centre for Health Protection: activation of its inquiry
hotline, dissemination of reporting guidance for clinics and
hospitals, and medical surveillance for exposed workers.
--Hospital Authority: enhancing triage assessment and patient
segregation measures, directing potential human cases to be
sent to the Princess Margaret Hospital Infectious Disease
Center, and expanding support by the laboratory network for
testing.
--AFCD: testing and inspecting all farms and markets,
suspending live poultry imports, culling markets and
disposing of carcasses, and reviewing biosecurity measures.
--Customs and Excise: increasing inspection at the borders
and investigating source of infected birds.


HONG KONG 00001061 002 OF 002


Post Preparedness
-----------------

5. (SBU) Post has been operating at "serious-alert level" in
parallel to the HKG since late winter 2008. Post's Avian
Influenza Working Group is actively monitoring all new
developments, and Emergency Action Plan measures and
tripwires are up-to-date. Post continues to provide
information to American citizens via the Consulate website,
to American businesses via OSAC and the American Chamber, and
to Post employees through administrative notices and the
Intranet.

Media Pressure Intense
----------------------

6. Comment: While the average Hong Kong citizen is interested
in H5N1 developments, there is no outward evidence of
concern. We are not seeing individuals wearing face masks
and there are many shoppers in the markets. Most infectious
disease experts in Hong Kong have acknowledged that the virus
is present in the region as evidenced by six migratory birds
found with H5N1 in Hong Kong this year, and it would
eventually be found again in the poultry supply. However,
media coverage has been extensive and unrelenting in calls
for a quicker response at the initial sign of the virus on
June 7, in demands for a central slaughterhouse in Shenzhen
to strengthen biosecurity measures, and in reaction to
poultry traders demands for compensation. Increasing media
and public opinion pressure has the potential to cause an
abundance of caution by the HKG in its action, as seen in
March when primary school were closed for two weeks at the
height of peak seasonal influenza season (reftel B). End
comment.

7. (U) Post's point of contact is ESTH Officer Dawn Schrepel,
who can be reached at schrepeldm@state.gov, 852-2841-2104
(office).
Cunningham

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