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Hong Kong lowers bird-flu alert

world Updated: Dec 08, 2010 11:48 IST

Hong Kong on Wednesday lowered its public health warning on bird flu, less than a month after the densely packed city announced its first human case of the illness since 2003.

Officials scaled down the avian influenza warning to "alert" from "serious" because no new cases had been reported since authorities reported on November 17 that a 59-year-old woman had contracted the disease.

"As there had been no new cases in Hong Kong, the government has decided to lower the response level for avian influenza to 'alert'," York Chow, secretary for food and health, told reporters.

Hong Kong was the site of the world's first major outbreak of bird flu among humans in 1997, when six people died of a mutation of the virus, which is normally confined to poultry.

Officials have said last month's case was "imported and isolated" as the female patient who was later taken out of intensive care visited several cities in mainland China before falling ill.

Millions of birds were culled in the 1997 outbreak.

Six years later, the city was gripped by a full-blown panic when the deadly respiratory disease SARS emerged, killing about 300 people.

Public anxiety returned to the city of seven million people last year with an outbreak of swine flu that claimed about 80 lives.