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70% HK residents reject live chickens on flu fear
( 2004-02-04 10:22) (China Daily HK Edition)

More than 70 per cent of people in Hong Kong will not purchase live chickens because of worries of being infected by the bird flu raging across Asia.

This is the finding of a study conducted by Hong Kong's Democratic Party which interviewed 800 people in the past several days.

According to its findings, 68.3 per cent of those interviewed will also avoid buying chilled poultry and 70 per cent will avoid eating chicken when dining out.

Although Hong Kong is currently free from the avian flu, Legislator Fred Li Wah-ming said the study suggests that public confidence in consuming poultry products has dropped substantially.

In the survey, more than 50 per cent of people said they are satisfied with the government's measures to guard the territory against an outbreak of avian flu.

Hong Kong has banned imports of live chickens and pet birds and closed aviaries.

After chicken markets were ordered to be thoroughly cleaned, the government yesterday orga-nized a cross-department cleaning operation at Mongkok "Bird Garden", which is renowned for pet-bird shops.

Cleaning measures included sterilization of garden premises with bleach, and collection of pet-bird droppings for testing at government laboratories.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department will enhance monitoring of hygiene conditions and cleaning measures at the garden, with frequent inspection of stalls to ensure that pet-bird sellers are following new licensing regulations, said Assistant Director Lai Ching-wai.

He said pet-bird shops that fail to observe the new regulations might have their licences revoked.

A majority of bird sellers have complied with the new licensing rules.

But some sellers complained that fears of a possible outbreak have affected their businesses substantially, with profits dropping by 50 per cent, Lai told reporters.

Regarding the large number of chicken carcasses found at the Tai Kong Po dead animal disposal centre in Tai Po, Lai said the health authorities have found no trace of the H5N1 virus in the dead chickens.

In the past two months, eight chicken farms reported a fatality rate over 4 per cent, but none of them has been infected by the deadly virus, he said.

Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Yeoh Eng-kiong said the government is keeping tight surveillance on local farms and wet markets, while daily tests for H5N1 viral infections have all produced negative results.

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