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Cablegate: Avian Influenza Outbreak in Hong Kong, 80,000

VZCZCXRO2613
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHHK #2222/01 3451044
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101044Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6425
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 3894
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA PRIORITY 1765
RUEHKL/AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR PRIORITY 7562
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1376
RUEHPF/AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH PRIORITY 0829
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE PRIORITY 3956
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 002222

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMED EAGR KFLU PINR TBIO HK CH
SUBJECT: AVIAN INFLUENZA OUTBREAK IN HONG KONG, 80,000
CHICKENS CULLED

1. (U) SUMMARY: Hong Kong,s Health Secretary announced on
December 9 the discovery of the H5 virus (Avian Influenza) in
three dead chickens on a commercial farm within the territory
near the border with China; test results for the H5N1 variant
(transmissible to humans) are pending. Responding to the
discovery, the HKG put in place a three kilometer quarantine
ring around the farm and announced the culling of as many as
90,000 chickens from the two commercial farms and a market
impacted by the discovery. The HKG has implemented its
standard operating procedure for dealing with discovery of H5
infected poultry, imposing a 21-day ban on the importing of
live chickens and raising the three-tier alert response level
one notch from its lowest level. The Office of the Health
Secretary has distributed information regarding the case to
local consulates as part of Hong Kong's standard public
response strategy. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) COMMENT: Hong Kong has well-established monitoring
systems and practiced protocols and procedures in place to
deal with the discovery. Health and hospital authorities are
reacting aggressively to contain and identify the source of
the outbreak. Hong Kong is nearing peak migratory bird
arrivals and a large wetland preserve frequented by migratory
waterfowl is located within the quarantine area. Despite
aggressive preventative measures, including poultry
vaccinations, discovery of the virus during the flu season is
not unexpected and the response has been professional and
appropriate. Front-page press reporting indicates the Hong
Kong residents have confidence in the government response.

3. (U) Hong Kong Secretary for Food and Health Dr. York Chow
announced on December 9 during in televised press conference
confirmed the H5 or Avian Influenza (AI) virus was present in
three dead chickens taken from a commercial farm in Yeun
Long, New Territories, Hong Kong. Chow stated the testing
was initiated after the owner reported a large number of dead
and dying chickens at his commercial farm on December 8.
Responding to the discovery, Health Authorities raised the
three-tier AI alert level one step from it's lowest level
(Alert) to the second level (Serious) and put in place a
three-kilometer quarantine ring around the infected farm.
The quarantine area includes a second, smaller commercial
chicken farm and portions of the Hong Kong Wetland Park, a
major stopping point for migratory waterfowl.

4. (U) Following its standard operating procedure for such
outbreaks, the HKG also imposed a 21-day ban the importation
of all live birds -- a disappointing move for many Hong Kong
residents who traditionally purchase live poultry for holiday
dinners during the winter solstice and Christmas season,
according to press reports. The Agriculture, Fisheries and
Conservation Department is now culling an estimated 80,000
chickens at the impacted farms and an additional 10,000 birds
from the farms which had already been shipped to markets.
Farmers and traders are receiving HK$30 (US$4.25) in
compensation for each bird killed. Although they are
currently displaying no symptoms, six farm workers at the
original infection site are being kept at Princess Margaret
Hospital for observation.

5. (SBU) The H5N1 virus is regularly tested for and found in
up to 25 wild birds in Hong Kong each year and was discovered
in chicken dropping in three Hong Kong wet markets in June.
The last confirmed outbreak of the AI virus in live chickens
in Hong Kong occurred in January 2003 and resulted in the
culling of over a million birds. Since that outbreak, the
HKG has banned the public sale of live waterfowl and taken
steady steps to drastically reduce the number of live chicken
vendors and markets stalls; movement to a central
slaughtering facility will be complete by 2011. Special
licensing and registration permits are required to keep live
chickens in the territory, which has a total live chicken
population today of about 600,000. Other risk mitigation
efforts include limiting purchase and importing of live
chickens to only Mainland farms inspected and certified by
the HKG and widespread use of flu vaccinations to ensure
birds remain healthy. Front page press reporting indicates

HONG KONG 00002222 002 OF 002


the Hong Kong public are taking the announcement and the HKG
actions in stride and have confidence in the Health
Department's response.
DONOVAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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