Medical News & Perspectives |

Hong Kong Flu Still Poses Pandemic Threat

Brian Vastag
JAMA. 2002;288(19):2391-2395. doi:10.1001/jama.288.19.2391.
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Washington—In December 1997, news watchers were confronted with sobering images of government workers in Hong Kong slaughtering 1.4 million chickens in a massive effort to prevent avian influenza from spreading through the densely populated city and, potentially, across the globe.

Earlier that year, what was later identified as a strain of influenza previously known to infect birds, but not people, had sent 18 patients to Hong Kong hospitals. The first case led to the death of a 3-year-old boy, followed by the deaths of five other patients.

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Chickens—on their feet and on the rack—for sale at a shop in Hong Kong. In June 2001 and May 2002, a total of 4 million chickens were destroyed there to stanch the potential spread of influenza. (Photo credit: Corbis)

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