Bird Flu Crisis in Hong Kong
Do you know how many chickens do we consume every day? Three thousand, five thousand or more? We demand almost more than ten thousand chickens daily. What a big figure! We can see that chickens are very important to Chinese society. Chickens are always devoted to God and served in dinners to celebrate traditional festivals. Without chickens, it will cause inconvenience to Hong Kong people, especially during Lunar New Year. Unfortunately, Hong Kong people has just encountered this situation. Because of the outbreak of bird flu, all chickens had to be removed from Hong Kong. In this report, we would like to talk about the topic ¡¥Bird Flu Crisis In Hong Kong¡¦. We will give a brief introduction of the bird flu virus H5N1, analyse the short-term and long-term consequences of the flu in Hong Kong and see what Hong Kong have learned from this incident.
What is Influenza A (H5N1)?
There are three types of influenza, designated A, B and C. Influenza B and C rarely cause local outbreak of flu but not the influenza A. It is very important to all mankind as this is the type of virus that has caused world-wide pandemics. And H5N1 belongs to the vision of influenza A.
What is H5N1? H stands for hemagglutinin (HA), which is a viral protein. It will cause the red blood cells to stick together. And N is the viral protein too, which is called neuraminidase (NA). In an influenza virion, there are five hundred spikes sticking out from its lipid envelope in which 80% of the spikes are HA and 20% NA. HA helps the virion get into host cells and NA helps the offspring virions to get out. The two virions together are responsible for the viruses¡¦ability to cause the disease. (Cited from http://www.synapse.ndirect.co.uk)
Bird flu virus H5N1 was first isolated form birds in South Africa in 1961. Within these 37 years, the virus seemed to disappear in the world. But with no warning given in advance, the virus reappeared last year in May and caused 6 deaths in Hong Kong.
People who are infected by the virus H5N1 would have the characteristic symptoms including a rapid development of fever and chills, headache, sore throat, muscle pains and dry cough. These symptoms would commence after the incubation period of 1 to 4 days. (Lee, Stella).
Short-term consequences of bird flu crisis
1. Pressure on hospitals
The sudden outbreak of H5N1 brought about worries and fears to Hong Kong people. We know very little about the virus so people suffering form winter colds crowded the emergency services of different hospitals. This increased the burden of the emergency services.
The Department of Health was to blame because if failed to inform the public of the symptoms of bird flu infection. It should have told the differences between and cold and flu through TV and radio announcements. Also all government clinics should have been open on Sundays and public holidays so that people could go there for blood testing.
2. Import ban and mass slaughter of chickens
Since H5N1 was found in the blood samples of some of the chickens, all chickens had to be removed from Hong Kong to prevent the spread of the disease. On 24 December 1997, the Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD) banned all chicken imports from the mainland. And on 29th of the same month, the AFD started to slaughter all the chickens in local poultry farms and market stalls.
It was criticised that the mass slaughter was too late because H5N1 had already killed 2 persons. Since the AFD overlooked the difficulties of the mass slaughter, the proposed 24-hour operation finally turned out to be a 3-day one. The AFD claimed that their staff had no experience in slaughtering and thus made the slaughter process much more time consuming.
In the slaughter process, chickens are gassed to death by using carbon dioxide (CO2). Due to the lack of CO2 in Hong Kong, gassed-to-death process was inefficient. In...
References: Chan, Felix & Ng, Kang-Chung. ¡§Costly fresh chickens sell out in two hours.¡¨
Lee, Naomi. ¡§Hawkers ignore chicken kill guidelines as imports rise.¡¨
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