Bird flu may have spread to mainland China
Health workers in Hong Kong dispose of dead chickens
But officials there deny it
December 30, 1997
Web posted at: 11:12 a.m. EST (1612 GMT)
HONG KONG (CNN) -- As Hong Kong vendors slit the throats of their chickens and ducks and the government gassed farm poultry, there were reports Tuesday that the "bird flu" that
has killed four people in Hong Kong may have spread to
According to unofficial reports from sources in the southern
Chinese city of Guangzhou, at least one person has died from
the "bird flu" virus and others are sick. Chinese authorities
deny the reports.
"There are no reports of cases of bird flu on the mainland,"
Chinese government spokesman Tang Quoqiang said.
On Monday, the Chinese state-run media reported the flu
outbreak in Hong Kong, but did not mention that health
officials there believe the virus originated in southern
China. Mainland China supplies 80 percent of Hong Kong's
"Southern China has always been regarded as the epicenter of
influenza. And in fact, from the past, the new types of
influenza vaccine, influenza virus, really come from China,"
said Mak Kwok Hang, a Hong Kong government health consultant.
Poultry markets dark and empty
A ban on the export of mainland chickens to Hong Kong remains
in effect. And while China on Tuesday ordered broader and
more frequent testing on its poultry farms, it insisted its
birds are healthy and said it has no plans for a mass
The Hong Kong government began a plan Monday to kill,
disinfect and bury all of its chickens -- about 1.3 million
of them. Ducks, geese, quail, pigeons, doves and other birds
that have been in contact with chickens are being destroyed.
The drastic moves are intended to protect people from the
influenza virus A H5N1, which has attacked birds for years
but crossed into the human population for the first time this
year. Thirteen people are known to have been infected,
including four who died, while six others are suspected of
Places which already have been cleared of poultry were being
hosed down and disinfected on Tuesday. Poultry markets were
dark and empty and the only chickens on sale were frozen
birds flown in from the United States or Europe.
Chicken vendors in Hong Kong seek more government compensation, because of lost business
Farmers, vendors worry about future
With their livelihood wiped out, many poultry farmers and
vendors in Hong Kong are appealing to the government for
"Some have quit, others are taking a break at the moment. No
one has any jobs," said one poultry vendor. "We are just
waiting to see what the government will do. If this lasts a
long time without any business, all I can do is close down."
The farmers and vendors are being offered the equivalent of
about $4 per dead chicken.
"It's had a very great impact on our business. It's very
important that people's confidence in chicken meat be
restored," said Wat Chiu of the Hong Kong Hawkers
One vendor said he's having trouble convincing customers that
his chicken parts are imported.
Some poultry wholesalers in mainland China have never heard of "bird flu"
"My frozen chicken sales dropped 90 percent," he said. "Today
I sold only 10 pounds. Normally I sell several hundred."
Restaurants cope with menu loss
There are other consequences as well.
Restaurants, in particular, are learning to cope without one
of Chinese cuisine's most popular ingredients. However,
restaurant manager Tony Tse was not worried.
"Even if there's no chicken, people still need to fill their
stomachs, so they'll order something else," he said.
Some customers seemed prepared to be flexible.
"I can't eat beef or I'll go crazy. Now I can't eat chicken.
If I'm Jewish, I can't eat pork. I might as well become a
vegetarian," one customer complained.
Correspondents Donna Liu and Rebecca MacKinnon contributed to