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Bird Flu Threat Prompts Tightened Security Across Hong Kong Border

Custom officials in Hong Kong have been put on high alert following the detection of the deadly avian influenza (H5N1) among birds and poultry. // The officials have been instructed to keep a strict vigilance regarding the smuggling of birds and poultry into the territory.

The proposed move has also strengthened communication with China with respect to illegal trafficking of birds. The health chief of the former British colony, York Chow would travel to Shenzhen shortly to meet the concerned health officials across the border.

'Front line customs officers have been put on high alert and examination of suspicious imported cargo and baggage has also been increased. We urge people not to bring birds or poultry into Hong Kong illegally, or they will face prosecution,' said Chow Kwong, assistant commissioner of Hong Kong's boundary and ports authority.

A chicken brought inside Hong Kong from China has been detected to harbor the avian influenza virus, much to the concern of health officials. The potentially lethal virus has claimed the lives of more than 86 individuals and infected 161 others since 2003, according to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO).

So far, no case of human-human transmission has been documented. It is however feared that mutation of the virus into a more virulent form, leading to a global pandemic.

If bird flu infection of the dead magpie were confirmed, it would be the fifth confirmed case in Hong Kong. Although no cases of have been reported from Guangdong, health experts feel that H5N1 was probably endemic to the region.

Hong Kong custom officials had seized chicken and poultry meat, weighing approximately 250,000 kg in 2005. In addition, illegal transport of live chicken and other birds have been recorded in the same year.

With effective implementation of increased surveillance measures across the border, the number is only expected to i ncrease in the next few months.


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