Hong Kong confirmed a case of bird flu in a teenage girl Thursday, bringing to 14 the number of people known to be infected with the sometimes fatal virus. It was the first new case this week.
Hong Kong’s Cabinet will discuss the crisis at its weekly meeting today, amid reports that at least one Cabinet member is accusing the government of overreacting to the outbreak - which so far is spreading more slowly than had been feared.
Doctors have pinpointed chickens as the likely source of the mysterious influenza A H5N1 virus, leading the government to order all Hong Kong’s 1.3 million chickens killed.
The slaughter began Monday morning and ended late Wednesday.
But Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the Executive Council, or Cabinet, said the decision to slaughter the birds had been too hasty, Hong Kong radio reported.
Chicken farmers are demanding compensation far higher than the $3.85 per bird suggested by the government. Hong Kong’s leader Tung Chee-hwa said Wednesday a compensation figure would likely be announced next week.
Tam also urged the government to improve its handling of the crisis and publicize any plans it had to contain the the disease.
In addition to the 14 confirmed cases, six people are suspected of having contracted the virus. Four of the 20 have died, and three are in critical condition.
The latest victim, a 14-year-old girl, was the first case in five days. She is in satisfactory condition, the Department of Health said in a statement. Ten people confirmed or suspected of having the flu have recovered.
The virus claimed its first known human victim in May, when a 3-year-old boy died.
Work has begun on a vaccine, but an order to develop it has not been given.
Very few people are thought to be immune, and experts say if the virus starts to transmit faster it could lead to an epidemic.