The virulent flu that has killed chickens and humans in Hong Kong could be disastrous to Washington’s multi-billion-dollar poultry industry should birds here become infected, agriculture officials say.
“It could decimate our poultry industry if that particular virus got in here,” said Dr. Bob Mead, state veterinarian for the Washington Department of Agriculture.
Hong Kong is slaughtering 1.3 million chickens to stem the spread of the influenza virus A H5N1, which has long attacked birds but crossed into the human population for the first time this year.
Hong Kong also has banned the import of all poultry.
“It’s not politically correct to have embargoes on people immigrating or traveling,” Mead said. “I would say we should recommend to terminate travel to Hong Kong. … I doubt that would be done.”
“The good news is from what we know of the transmission in Hong Kong, even if an individual were to arrive here with avian flu, the chances of that person infecting other people seem to be slight,” said Dr. Ann Marie Kimball, director of the University of Washington Community Medicine School of Public Health.