The International Response to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Science, Policy and Politics
Publisher: Institute for Development Studies | Pages:103 | October 7, 2008 | ISBN:1858645441 | PDF | 1.7 MB

On June 11th 2008 another outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) was reported in Hong Kong – the site of the first reported human deaths from this virus in 1997. Media reports portrayed the possibility of a major catastrophe. Anxious citizens stopped eating chicken. With China hosting the Olympics in a matter of weeks, concerns were raised in the highest circles about the consequences of an outbreak – for world profile and for business. Politicians wanted firm action. On June 20th, officials proposed a package of US$128 million to put the small-scale poultry sector and wet markets out of business. Traders have rejected the proposal, and many consumers argue that the alternative frozen supermarket chickens are not what they want. Others argue that attempts at regulating imports and banning wet markets are futile. Informal, unregulated trade abounds, and with South China being a known, if poorly reported, hot spot of avian influenza virus circulation, the chances of keeping Hong Kong free of the disease are very small indeed. Yet, sceptics argue that the proposed measures are more about political grandstanding and public relations than sensible, science-based control policies. They argue that the net consequences for farmers’, traders’ and poorer consumers’ livelihoods will be negative, with only the ell-connected large suppliers and supermarkets benefiting. But, given the fears around viral mutation into a form capable of efficient human-to-human transmission, others conclude that precaution, even if drastic, is the most appropriate route1...
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