Avian flu in southern China
A game of chicken
Jun 26th 2008 | HONG KONG
From The Economist print edition
The government’s caution arouses suspicions about what it knows
ALMOST as long as it has had people, Hong Konghas had booths selling squawking live chickens. They are treasured by localswho spurn frozen meat, finding it tasteless. But after the latest in a seriesof outbreaks of avian influenza, the government has offered HK$1 billion ($128m) to put the whole business out of itsmisery. That is the cost of a plan unveiled on June 20th to buy back all thelicences allowing live chickens to be sold.
The latest bout of bird flu was first detected in four wet markets in Hong Kong on June 11th. Since then there has been nopanic. But fear has advanced in baby steps. The government at once ordered acull of 3,500 birds being held for sale, and banned imports of live chickensfrom Chinafor 21 days. The news reached the territory’s elite when exclusive restaurantshad to pull chicken from their menus.
Then came reports of 4,000 ducks dying at a Guangdong farm, having contracted, it waslater confirmed, the H5N1 avian-flu virus. Another 17,000 birds were killed asa precaution and Hong Kong blocked imports ofall birds raised within 13km(eight miles) of the affected farm.
The source of the original infection remains a mystery. So the governmentdecided to preclude future problems with its drastic decision to end thelive-chicken trade. The traders, many from families that have used the samestalls for generations, have rejected the offer of compensation for theirlicences as mean and misguided. They have threatened to release live poultry onto the streets. The government is continuing to negotiate with them. Publicopinion on the issue is hard to gauge: as in any market, fear is battling greed,and in this case gluttony.
The ban on chickens imported from China expires on July 2nd. But theywill have to be sold the day they are imported and those unbought will beslaughtered. Yet, amid all the carnage, questions remain about the seriousnessof the outbreak. Sceptics wonder if it is merely another of many efforts toensure that nothing, particularly an outbreak of disease, can cast a shadow onthe Beijing Olympics in August. Others, however, point to the strength of thegovernment’s response, and ask if there is more to it. They recall the epidemicin 2003 of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which killed hundreds ofpeople before disappearing as mysteriously as it had arrived.
So some fear that the government knows more than it is letting on,particularly about the presence of avian flu in southern China, where health inspectors andthe press both face constraints. Hong Kong insists all imports from Chinamust come from specially licensed farms, but reporters from Next, alocal magazine, discovered the rules being circumvented.
Since 1997, when 18 people were infected with bird flu and six died, therehave been numerous outbreaks. Avian flu is not only particularly virulent; italso has the rare capacity to cross barriers between species. But it is hard totransmit. Well-cooked chicken is safe. In the past, it has been relayed throughhandling and poor sanitation, both issues of concern in Hong Kong. Local television stations have begun running public-serviceadvertisements urging people to wash their hands and to wear masks if theysuffer flu-like symptoms.
The second precaution seems redundant; bird flu has not yet spread fromone person to another. But it underscores the bigger fear: that the diseasemight mutate and become broadly infectious. Given the frequency with which thedisease crops up in Hong Kong, the governmentmay be justified in not taking any chances.
Game of Chicken在维基百科里的解释是：
The game of Chicken, also known as the Hawk-Dove or Snowdrift game, is an influential model of conflict for two players in game theory. The principle of the game is that while each player prefers not to yield to the other, the outcome where neither player yields is the worst possible one for both players. The name “Chicken” has its origins in a game in which two drivers drive towards each other on a collision course: one must swerve, or both may die in the crash, but if one driver swerves but the other does not, he or she will be called a “chicken”
简言之，Game of Chicken原意指的是”比胆大的游戏”，两个司机沿着一条道路面对面开车，如果其中一个人胆怯而闪开了，则两人相安无事，但先闪开的人会被叫做”chicken”，”胆小鬼”，但至少能保住命。如果两人都不做”chicken”，就都死定了。