Hong Kong's new "bird" flu poses no health threat: officials

richardl at cs.ualberta.ca richardl at cs.ualberta.ca
Wed Sep 10 09:00:46 EST 1997


   Hong Kong's newly-discovered "bird" flu bug, which has kiled a
 three-year-old boy, poses "no major threat" to public health, a
 government health official said Monday. 
 
   T. A. Saw, deputy director of Hong Kong's Department of Health,  
 told reporters at the end of a joint investigation into the virus, 
 codenamed H5NI, that "from the information we have at present, it 
 appears that it is of no major public health risks." 

    "There is no need for undue concerns or to take measures," said  
 Saw 

    An international team of medical experts was called in from the  
 Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control on behalf of the World 
 Health Organisation to assist in the investigation. 

    The team completed their investigations over the weekend and was  
 urgently working to find a cure for the virus, which was previously 
 only found in poultry. 

    Hong Kong officials have extended the search to China for the  
 killer "bird flu" virus, which had not been previously seen in 
 humans. 

    The three-year-old boy died in May from a range of medical  
 complications but it was only last month, after laboratory tests 
 were conducted in the United States and Europe, that his death was 
 pinned to the new strain of flu virus. 

    Flu is notorious for mutating into new types of virus, a  
 phenomenon which makes vaccination only partly effective. 

    The world's worst flu outbreak was in 1918-19, which killed an  
 estimated 20 million people. 

    The last time a new flu strain broke out in Hong Kong was in  
 1968, which killed 45 people. 

    The virus has reportedly been named "Hong Kong 1997" in order to  
 differentiate the virus from a previous strain, popularly called 
 "Hong Kong flu," that broke out here in 1968. 

    Medical tradition requires a new strain of virus to be named  
 after the country where it was found. 




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