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Avian Influenza_ Hong Kong 5_29_01

CEI LogoAvian Influenza, Hong Kong

Impact Worksheet, May 29, 2001

Summary: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (SAR) has reported an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) type A(H5N1) in city live-bird markets. Since May 21, 2001, all 1.2 million susceptible birds in Hong Kong are being depopulated and carcasses destroyed as preventive measures to stop this outbreak. Poultry production in Hong Kong is very small from a world perspective. Hong Kong imports large quantities of poultry products primarily from the US, Brazil, China, Canada, and the EU.

The United States imports small quantities of poultry meat and poultry products from Hong Kong. All of this meat product is thermally processed and poses no hazard for transmitting avian influenza. The United States also imports small quantities of clean and disinfected down stuffing material. Avian influenza can be mechanically transmitted by travelers, however, the control measures being instituted in Hong Kong should significantly minimize the risk posed by travelers. Thus far, the H5N1 strain in Hong Kong has not affected humans.

How extensive is the situation in the affected country, and what was the country’s disease status prior to the outbreak?

On May 17, 2001 the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (SAR) reported that highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) type A(H5N1) virus was detected in three retail live-bird markets, with increased mortality in the bird population observed during previous days. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department closed all three affected live-bird markets and destroyed all birds on affected premises. The following day all wholesale and retail markets in Hong Kong selling chickens were closed and birds were destroyed.

On May 21, 2001, additional steps to depopulate a total of approximately 1.2 million live birds on Hong Kong territory were taken as a precautionary measure to stop this outbreak. Officials at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department reported that the cull would cover 208 farms raising chickens, pigeons, and quail, although there was no indication that these farms were contaminated. To date the source of the avian influenza outbreak remains unknown. Importation of live birds from the Mainland China has been stopped, and retail markets for live poultry will remain closed for 4 weeks.

The last outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Hong Kong was reported in December 1997. The current H5N1 virus strain differs genetically from the previous H5N1 virus responsible for disease in 1997 which also affected 15 humans. No human cases of influenza H5N1 virus have been detected at this time.

Source: World Health Organization report 5/17-18, 2001, and Fact Sheet No. 188 dated 1/1998; ProMED report 5/22, 2001.

What is the country’s production and trade in affected animals and animal products?

Hong Kong is a small producer of live poultry due to limited availability and high cost of agricultural land. Farms are primarily poultry and pig raising operations. No official statistics are available for number of poultry locally raised, however, it is estimated that the recent depopulation measures include 850,000 chickens, 140,000 pigeons, and 70,000 quail from local farms. Prior to the outbreak, approximately 120,000 live chickens were imported daily from the Mainland (China) for sale on Hong Kong’s live-bird markets.

In year 2000, Hong Kong produced a total of 71 thousand metric tons (MT) of poultry meat including 57 thousand MT from imported live poultry from China, and 14 thousand MT from domestically grown birds. Hong Kong imported a total of 961 thousand MT meat, including 886 thousand MT chicken meat, 29 thousand MT turkey meat, and smaller amount of meat from other domestically raised fowl.

In 2000, the US exported to Hong Kong 660 thousand MT of poultry product, Brazil 118 thousand MT, Mainland China 56 thousand MT, and Canada 31 thousand MT. The remainder of Hong Kong’s imports originated in the EU, Thailand, and Argentina. Approximately 79% of imported chicken meat and 76% of imported turkey meat was re-exported to Mainland China and Macau.

Source: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service - Attaché Report 2/15, 2001; ProMED report 5/22, 2001 .

What are the U.S. imports of affected animals or animal products from the country?

US imports of poultry products from Hong Kong are minimal. No live poultry was imported to the US in year 2000 and the first three months of year 2001, and only two pet birds were imported in December 2000 from Hong Kong. Live birds arriving in the US from Hong Kong and from other foreign countries are subject to quarantine for 30 days and are tested for avian influenza in accordance with 9 CFR Part 93.209, and VS Memorandum 591.22.

After reunification of Hong Kong with China in 1997, statistical data pertinent to US poultry meat imports from Hong Kong are conflicting. According to World Trade Atlas, the US imported in year 2000 only 3.5 MT of prepared turkey meat (code 160231). However, USDA, FAS, attaché report states that during the same time period the US imported 118 MT of unspecified poultry meat. USDA, FSIS, Import/Export branch data indicate that the U.S. is importing thermally processed poultry meats from Hong Kong which originate in only one processing plant certified for export to the US (Establishment # U.1). To date there are no import restrictions for the product from this plant because the thermally processed products pose no risk for transmitting avian influenza.

The US imported in year 2000 approximately 1 thousand MT of clean and disinfected down stuffing (code 050510), and in first three months of year 2001, about 200 MT. Approximately 1,300 kilograms of product category "Skins or parts of birds with feathers, waste, etc." (code 050590) were imported in year 2000, and an additional 1,000 kilograms of the same product in the first three months of year 2001. To enter the US, these products must be processed in a manner which inactivates potential pathogens. No poultry eggs or egg products were imported in year 2000 or 2001.

Source: USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service - Attaché Report 2/15, 2001; World Trade Atlas; USDA, APHIS,VS; USDA, FSIS .

What is the level of passenger traffic arriving in the United States from the affected country?

In year 1998 (most recent data), direct flights from Hong Kong carried about 627,000 passengers, representing approximately 1% of travelers arriving from foreign destinations in US airports. Nearly all these flights arrive in California, including San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Mechanical transmission of avian influenza virus by travelers is possible, however, the control measures being instituted in Hong Kong significantly minimize the risk of mechanical transmission posed by travelers.

A total of 893 passengers from Hong Kong were sampled as part of APHIS, PPQ’s Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Monitoring in fiscal year 2000. None of these passengers was carrying potentially hazardous items such raw poultry products.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Transportation; USDA, APHIS, VS: The Potential for International Travelers to Transmit Foreign Animal Diseases to US livestock and Poultry. April 2001.

CEI’s interpretation:

Hong Kong has instituted strict control measures to eliminate the current avian influenza outbreak. US imports from Hong Kong are small and pose minimal risk because they are processed in a manner which inactivates the virus. To date, the virus has not affected humans in Hong Kong.

CEI’s plans for follow up on this outbreak:

CEI currently has no plans to provide additional information on this situation; however, if the situation should change significantly, follow-up information will be provided. If you seek more information or wish to comment on this worksheet, please reply to this message or contact Milo Muller at (970) 490-7844.

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