HONG KONG—A year and a half after its conception, Hong Kong officially opened its new Centre for Health Protection (CHP) on Wednesday (October 27).

The institute was created in the aftermath of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreaks to better prevent and control disease, with an initial budget of $125 million. Its opening ceremony was marked by stern words from Shigeru Omi, director of the Western Pacific office of the World Health Organization.

Omi said that avian influenza viruses, currently spreading in poultry in Thailand, are becoming more versatile and could pose an even greater threat to human health. "All countries need to intensify their effort [to stamp out bird flu]," he said, urging Hong Kong health officials to work closer with their counterparts in Thailand and Vietnam.

In 1997, Hong Kong was commended for its quick isolation of the previously unknown H5N1 avian influenza virus. As the disease...

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