But the poultry trade thinks the existing measures are adequate A leading Hong Kong microbiologist yesterday told legislators the centralised slaughtering of chickens was the best way to prevent an avian flu outbreak. The comments from Yuen Kwok-yung, chair professor of infectious diseases and head of the University of Hong Kong's microbiology department, opened the first Legco debate since the government released a controversial proposal to eliminate all live-bird stalls in April. Medical experts on the Legislative Council's panel on food safety and environmental hygiene also backed Professor Yuen. Some veterinarians, zoologists and representatives of the poultry trade, invited to discuss the proposal, opposed the experts' view. 'The risk [of bird to human flu transmission] is not high, but if it were to happen the result could be disastrous,' Professor Yuen said. 'The mortality rate [of this disease] is 70 per cent.' The proposal outlined two options: one central slaughterhouse producing chilled and frozen chicken and several regional slaughterhouses selling freshly butchered meat. Either option would replace the 814 live-chicken stalls in wet markets. Professor Yuen opted for a single centralised slaughterhouse because it would minimise human contact with live birds and reduce the risk of transmission. Wong Tze-wai, professor of community medicine at the Chinese University, supported Professor Yuen. The medical experts cited other developed nations, including Japan and Singapore, which employ centralised slaughter. Poultry trade representatives called the professor's comments an exaggeration of the danger. They argued that preventive measures now in place were sufficient as Hong Kong had not suffered the outbreaks seen elsewhere in Asia. 'If we listen to the professor then all of Hong Kong people would die,' said legislator Wong Yung-kan, representing the agricultural and fisheries trade. Frederick Leung Chi-ching, associate professor of zoology at the University of Hong Kong, said the best solution would be to stop infected birds getting to markets.