06/16/2006, 00.00
CHINA - HONG KONG
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New bird flu case in China

The cause of the latest bird flu case remains unclear but the area in which it happened has had no bird flu infection in poultry. Hong Kong bans all imports.

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Another bird flu case has been confirmed in mainland China and Hong Kong has banned mainland chicken imports from today after a 31-year-old man in Shenzhen, a truck driver who lives in Anliang village (Longgang district) and is employed by a shoe factory, became critically ill with the H5N1 flu.

The cause of the infection has yet to be determined. What is known is that the man started showing flu symptoms on June 3. Tests on 98 people, including his wife and three children, proved negative. No bird flu case has been reported among poultry in Shenzhen.

Under normal circumstances, some 20,000 chickens arrive in Hong Kong from Guangdong, in addition to thousands of chicks and other birds, but the latest case has led authorities in the former British colony to ban all poultry imports for three weeks.

It is the second time the ban has been imposed since March, when a Guangzhou man died of bird flu.

"The import suspension is a preventive measure," HK Health, Welfare and Food Secretary York Chow Yat-ngok said last night. "We consider it is necessary for the sake of safety and also to give time to the relevant authorities to conduct a full investigation."

It is expected that imports will resume if no further cases of bird flu, in humans or birds, were detected in the area. But in the meantime the price of chicken is also expected to almost double, according to Tsui Ming-tuen, chairman of the Hong Kong Live Poultry Wholesalers' Association, that

Ten people in Hong Kong are sick in hospitals with pneumonia; they had visited Guangdong and Hubei before they fell sick. The five men and five women aged one to 75 have been given rapid tests for H5N1. Results are still pending.

The new case brings to 19 the number of human bird flu cases so far on the mainland, with 12 people dying.

So far there have been more than 40 outbreaks in 12 of China's provinces. (PB)

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