The bird flu case revealed yesterday brings back painful memories of the initial outbreak in 1997. On August 20 that year, Hong Kong learned a three-year-old boy had died after contracting a strain of influenza never before found in humans. The H5N1 flu was identified three months after samples were sent to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta in the US and a Dutch laboratory. Director of Health Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, who announced the grim findings, warned that if the new strain mutated, it could spread. There was a risk of an epidemic, she said, citing the 1968 outbreak of Hong Kong Flu that killed 45 people. The threat did not materialise. But in November that year, a second case of H5N1 was reported, with a few more within the next two months. In all, 18 were infected, six of whom died. Hong Kong's international reputation was badly bruised and the poultry industry was compensated $90.4 million after an unprecedented decision to cull all its 1.4 million chickens and other poultry. The 1997 outbreak also led to the implementation of anti-bird flu measures, the most drastic of which was the ban on the sale of live ducks and geese. Wet markets were ordered to clean up and follow hygiene measures in handling chickens. In the aftermath of the crisis, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa created the Environment and Food Bureau and put it under Lily Yam Kwan Pui-ying. But the new bureau did not prevent a second outbreak, in May 2001, among wet markets. Again, 1.4 million birds were slaughtered and $88.6 million paid in compensation. New anti-bird flu measures were put in place, including the ban on the sale of live quail. A few months later, Hong Kong saw yet another H5N1 outbreak, this time affecting chicken farms, from February to April last year. A total of 950,000 birds were slaughtered in Yuen Long and $25 million compensation paid. New measures were introduced, such as a market rest day and a chicken vaccination programme. By the fourth outbreak, which began in December, wild waterbirds were infected for the first time. Waterfowls at Penfold Park at the Sha Tin racecourse and at Kowloon Park began to die. As part of new measures, the vaccination programme was expanded and a second market rest day was introduced.