Image via Arlette
Hong Kong is presently bird-flu free, and would like to keep it that way, thank you very much. The government has cracked down at the HK-Shenzhen border crossing, and has begun screening tourists for any signs of the infection. An estimated 4.2 million people are expected to cross the border during the upcoming Labor Day holiday, and Hong Kongers are understandably nervous at the chance of an outbreak.
Hong Kong has a reputation as an incubator for infectious disease, most notably with the SARS virus in 2003 and a certain Matt Damon movie in 2011. The H7N9 flu has already popped up in Hunan, leading to fears that Guangdong and Hong Kong could be next.
The Wall Street Journal is optimistic on Hong Kong’s chances of staving off the bird flu, or at least handling it well upon arrival:
For the moment, experts say the risk of a mass outbreak remains limited, given that the virus isn’t easily spread from human to human.
Hong Kong is better equipped to fight an outbreak than ever before. The city’s public hospitals have more than 1,400 isolation beds that allow for swift quarantines.[…]
In the wake of SARS, the government in 2004 set up a new center focused on disease control, including better surveillance and diagnostic systems.
“In terms of hardware, I don’t worry, and I think that Hong Kong is the best-prepared city in the world,” said Justin Wu of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, one of the doctors on the front lines during the SARS crisis. […]
The city currently imports 7,000 live chickens daily from mainland China, and it regularly tests 3% of such imports for avian influenza. In recent weeks, it has also begun spot checks that allow for more rapid testing. The city has special teams to collect and test dead wild birds for bird flu; it has tested over 33,000 such birds in the past decade.
3% isn’t the most encouraging figure, but Hong Kong officials say they are ready to ban all poultry imports if deemed necessary. So far 120 cases of H7N9 have been confirmed in the mainland, with 23 deaths.