The 161-room hotel, complete with five creative meeting spaces, will be located in the heart of the city on the historical Quayside, offering breath-taking views across the River Tyne and an eclectic home-from-home feel for business guests to meet in and explore the city centre. The property is situated a short distance from Newcastle Railway Station and Newcastle International Airport, as well as walking distance to the SAGE Conference Centre. For those looking to combine business with pleasure, and explore the local culture, the city’s celebrated Eldon Square shopping centre, the Biscuit Factory art gallery and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art are all within walking distance from the hotel. – Advertisement – The Open Living Lounge will act as the beating heart of the hotel, with the open plan lobby offering the ideal transitional space to allow guests slip seamlessly from work to play. The space will serve food throughout the day with local DJs providing the perfect soundtrack for guests and visitors to relax and unwind over a post-work cocktail. Each stay will be enriched with music, art and literature curated by the hotel’s local experts.- Advertisement – Guests will be able to enjoy an exclusive dining experience on the Tyne, thanks to the restaurant’s floor to ceiling windows and beautiful outdoor terrace overlooking the iconic river. The hotel had initially planned to open last year. OlderWorld Travel Awards reveals Middle East hospitality leaders NewerNew leadership for Nobu Ibiza Bay Meliá Hotels International has announced the upcoming opening of Innside Newcastle.The property will welcome its first guests on December 14th.- Advertisement – – Advertisement –
Still, three years later, the California Supreme Court made a sweeping and unanimous ruling in a case known as Dynamex. Under the three-prong employment test proposed by the court, Uber and Lyft drivers appeared to be employees, not contractors.The ruling prompted concern among gig economy companies, but they did not move to reclassify their workers. Lawmakers saw an opportunity to regulate a defiant industry. The vote resolves the fiercest regulatory battle Uber and Lyft have faced and opens a path for the companies to remake labor laws throughout the country. The fight pit labor groups and state lawmakers against ride-hailing and delivery start-ups that spent $200 million in support of the measure.- Advertisement – “The last 14 months in California have been the most critical point on this issue,” said Bradley Tusk, a venture capitalist who advised Uber on political issues during its early years. Emboldened by the election, Uber and other gig economy players will likely pursue federal legislation to formally enshrine gig work in the nation’s labor laws.The passage of Prop. 22 is a bitter loss for state and local officials who have long seen the ride-hailing companies as obstinate upstarts that shrugged off any effort to make them follow the rules.Many local officials believed California was too gentle for too long when it came to regulating Uber and Lyft and naïve about how powerful and influential the ride-hailing companies would quickly become.“For all too long, Uber and Lyft banked on the timidity of public officials throughout the country,” said Dennis Herrera, the city attorney of San Francisco. Mr. Herrera has sued Uber and Lyft in an attempt to force them to employ their drivers, and the litigation continues. “They said, ‘We’re not going to ask permission, we’ll sort of ask for forgiveness after the fact, once the horse has left the barn.’”Uber and Lyft launched in the early 2010s with just a handful of drivers, resembling car pool services more than professional fleets. While Uber initially attempted to mimic black car services, it quickly joined Lyft in promoting the idea that drivers were drawn to the apps by the novelty of gig work rather than the promise of traditional employment.Transit officials and taxi companies warned that the drivers lacked professional certification and were not subjected to background checks. Uber and Lyft argued that they were primarily technology companies, not transportation companies, and should not be forced into the burdensome requirements of licensing, safety checks and employment. The California Public Utilities Commission stepped in, setting baseline safety requirements but allowing Uber and Lyft to avoid hiring drivers.Still, the employment issue persisted. By 2015, the state labor commissioner ruled that drivers were “integral” to Uber’s business model, but the ruling allowed just one driver to be classified as an employee. In voting to support Uber and Lyft, Californians rejected the principles outlined in a 2018 state Supreme Court ruling and enshrined in a 2019 state law that said workers who perform tasks within a company’s regular business — and are controlled by the company and do not operate their own firms — must be treated as employees. Under Prop. 22, gig workers are exempted from these rules and can continue to work independently.The Yes on Prop. 22 campaign, backed by Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, celebrated the victory. “California has spoken,” Geoff Vetter, a spokesman for the campaign, said in a news release. “Prop. 22 represents the future of work in an increasingly technologically-driven economy.”Uber’s stock rallied almost 3 percent on Tuesday as polls suggested Prop. 22 was likely to pass. Lyft’s stock was also up 7 percent. – Advertisement – – Advertisement – “The problem is this: Uber and Lyft have neglected not just labor laws but every law in the book,” said Lorena Gonzalez, the California Assembly member who drafted the state’s new labor law. “The only reason we were able to get A.B. 5 is because of Dynamex. The Supreme Court created such a stark, clear rule. It freaked out business as much as it encouraged labor.”In September 2019, the state legislature approved Ms. Gonzalez’s bill, and the law took effect in January.Under the new law, Uber and Lyft drivers were employees. But nothing changed. The companies continued to treat them as independent contractors and vowed to take their fight to the ballot. In May, Mr. Herrera, joined by the state attorney general and the city attorneys of Los Angeles and San Diego, sued Uber and Lyft in an effort to enforce the law.When the court ordered the companies to immediately hire their drivers, Uber and Lyft threatened to shut down in California rather than comply. They also funneled millions more into the ballot fight, making Prop. 22 the most expensive initiative in the state’s history. An appeals court granted Uber and Lyft a small reprieve, allowing them several months to comply with the order. Uber, Lyft and the delivery service DoorDash designed the measure to exempt the companies from a state labor law that would have forced them to employ drivers and pay for health care, unemployment insurance and other benefits. As a concession to labor advocates, the initiative offers a wage floor and limited benefits to drivers.The Associated Press projected early Wednesday that Prop. 22 had carried 58 percent of the vote. Prop. 22 faced the strongest opposition in San Francisco, where Uber and Lyft are headquartered, with more than a 19 point deficit. OAKLAND, Calif. — Drivers and other workers for so-called gig economy companies in California will not become their employees.California voters carried Uber and Lyft to victory, overwhelmingly approving Proposition 22, a ballot measure that allows gig economy companies to continue treating drivers as independent contractors.- Advertisement – Although the lawsuit will continue, Prop. 22 will drastically reduce its scope. The state will continue to seek penalties for the time between January and the certification of the election results, when it says Uber and Lyft flouted the law.“You look back and you say, I wish it didn’t need to come to this, that people would have started adhering to the law,” Mr. Herrera said. “I thought it was important to fight for the rights of workers and the rights of consumers.”With the gig work model cemented in California, Uber and other gig economy companies are expected to pursue federal legislation that would protect them from similar employment laws in other states.The passage of Prop. 22 is a setback in the yearslong effort to regulate tech giants like Uber, but comes as federal lawmakers and officials are increasingly eager to take on big tech. Members of Congress in both parties support cracking down on social media companies and reining in the likes of Amazon and Google. Uber and its gig economy peers could be caught in that anti-tech sentiment.“We can’t just allow them to control what the future of work looks like,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “Somebody has to stand up for the future of workers.” Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, thanked drivers for the win in a late-night email. “The future of independent work is more secure because so many drivers like you spoke up,” he wrote. He said Uber would make the new benefits promised by Prop. 22 available “as soon as possible.”
– Advertisement – That outside website that “Stop the Steal” used Facebook to funnel people to was registered by a conservative digital consulting firm, Liberty Lab. Stop the Steal’s website and Facebook page also suggest links to the group “Women for America First,” which is led by the former chief executive of the Tea Party Express. Women for America First was started to protest Trump’s impeachment.Facebook’s policy on post-election claims would seem to bar Stop the Steal on multiple grounds, and apparently the company did conclude that it couldn’t host that. Just not until the group had hundreds of thousands of members. In moments like these, it’s always worth remembering that Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president of global public policy, was a key participant in the 2000 Brooks Brothers riot.- Advertisement –
Never run out of space for food and drink when you have a cooler from the REVO Coolers party beverage tub collection. Ensuring that entertaining is easy and fun, these party coolers have insulation for unlimited iced displays of beverages or food. The collection includes the Party Barge, the Dubler, and the Dubler HEAT. The Party Barge or Dubler make a great mimosa bar, Bloody Mary bar, champagne bar, wine bar, bubbly bar, margarita bar, ice bucket, and condiment display. Or use it for any other combination you want! The Dubler HEAT comes with microwave heat packs, making it a flameless chafing dish that keeps food warm for hours. You’ll make small gatherings at home special when you host like a pro with elegant bar stations and food displays. Great for anyone, this party beverage tub collection is ideal for party planners, caterers, events, and commercial use. – Advertisement –
“We are not a people of perpetual war — it is the antithesis of everything for which we stand for which our ancestors fought. All wars must end,” he added, writing that the U.S. was “on the verge of defeating Al Qaida and its associates.” “We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home,” Miller wrote. – Advertisement – – Advertisement – WASHINGTON — In his first message to U.S. military forces, acting Pentagon chief Chris Miller said he was “weary of war” and that it was time to end America’s conflicts in the Middle East.On Monday, Miller ascended to the Pentagon’s acting Secretary of Defense role after President Donald Trump’s sudden termination of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.“Indeed, this fight has been long, our sacrifices have been enormous, and many are weary of war — I’m one of them — but this is the critical phase in which we transition our efforts from a leadership to supporting role,” Miller wrote in an early Saturday morning message to Department of Defense employees.- Advertisement – The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.57 trillion since Sept. 11, 2001, according to a Defense Department report. The war in Afghanistan, which has dragged on to become America’s longest conflict, began 19 years ago and has cost U.S. taxpayers $193 billion, according to the Pentagon.Trump, who campaigned in 2016 on stopping “ridiculous endless wars” in the Middle East, took to Twitter last month to announce that American forces currently serving in Afghanistan will be home by Christmas.At the time, it was unclear if Trump was giving an order via tweet or reiterating a long-held campaign promise in order to appeal to voters ahead of the U.S. presidential election.Earlier this year, the United States brokered a peace deal with the Taliban that would usher in a permanent cease-fire and reduce the U.S. military’s footprint from approximately 13,000 to 8,600 by mid-July. And by May 2021, all foreign forces would leave the war-torn country.Trump has previously directed the Pentagon to reduce the U.S. fighting force in conflict zones. In 2018, Trump tweeted that the United States would be withdrawing troops out of Syria, a move that sent a shockwave through the Pentagon and contributed in part to the resignation of then-Defense Secretary James Mattis. Trump later reversed his decision to withdraw from Syria.In May, Trump complained on Twitter that America’s role in Afghanistan has been reduced to a “police force” and not a “fighting force.”When asked about the tweet by reporters during a White House event, Trump said that the U.S. could go back to Afghanistan if needed.“We can always go back if we have to. If we have to go back, we’ll go back, and we’ll go back raging,” Trump said in May. Staff Sgt Jonathan Lovelady | US. Air Force U.S. Army Staff Sgt. James Bates pulls security at a landing zone as his team loads a tactical vehicle into the cargo bay of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Farah province, Afghanistan on Sept. 26.- Advertisement – Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, testifies during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on “Threats to the Homeland” on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 24, 2020.Tom Williams via Reuters
Apr 18, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – A Chinese man in Hubei province has contracted the H5N1 avian influenza virus, while the pathogen has struck poultry in Sudan for the first time, according to news services.The 21-year-old Chinese man, who represents the country’s 17th human case, was in critical condition today, according to a Reuters report that cited China’s Health Ministry. Reuters described him as a migrant worker, but an Associated Press (AP) report today, quoting Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, a World Health Organization (WHO) spokeswoman, listed the patient as a security guard in Wuhan.The man fell ill on April 1 with a high fever and was eventually diagnosed with pneumonia of unknown cause, Bhatiasevi said. “The likely source of exposure is still under investigation and people who had close contact with him are under medical observation,” she said.The WHO is also seeking details from the Chinese government about a newspaper report that some 8,000 chickens were culled Apr 16 at a poultry farm about 300 miles southeast of Beijing, the AP story said. The Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post reported today that the culling followed the deaths last week of more than 400 chickens at that farm.Meanwhile, Sudan has announced its first poultry infections with avian flu and is monitoring a suspected human case, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today.More than 100,000 chickens on 15 farms near Khartoum have been exterminated, Mustafa Hassan, a Ministry of Animal Resources official, told AFP today. Suspected cases of avian flu in poultry have been reported in several Sudanese newspapers, AFP reported. But today’s confirmation was the first official acknowledgement of the situation.Hassan said the owner of a poultry farm near Khartoum had been hospitalized with suspected avian flu, and Health Minister Tabita Butros Shokaya later said the man had tested positive, AFP reported.However, John Jabbour, a WHO regional health regulation officer, today confirmed cases of H5N1 in poultry in Sudan but did not confirm any human cases, AFP reported. He added that a WHO team and representatives from the US Navy laboratory in Cairo were leaving Cairo today to begin assessing the situation in Sudan.The infected chickens were found at two farms in Khartoum and Jazeera provinces. The man suspected of having avian flu owns one of the farms, Reuters reported.Sudan shares its long northern border with Egypt. Egypt is one of a handful of African countries to have confirmed the H5N1 virus in poultry, and the only one with human cases confirmed to date. Other African countries that have had outbreaks in poultry are Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso.In addition to its proximity to at least one avian flu-affected country, Sudan faces a number of internal problems that could complicate response to H5N1. Infectious diseases still pose a major concern in Sudan: In less than 2 years, WHO has noted, Sudanese experienced Ebola, shigellosis, hepatitis E, meningococcal disease, yellow fever, and cholera. The overall life expectancy at birth is 58.9 years, according to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Factbook online.Sudan is also in the midst of a complex emergency in the western region of Darfur. About 200,000 people have died and nearly 2 million are displaced, according to the CIA. In addition, refugees have flocked from Ethiopia and Chad to Sudan. Armed conflict, transportation woes, and other hurdles have hindered humanitarian assistance.
Dr Sam Zaramba, Uganda’s director of health services, said one of the healthcare workers was a doctor who died in Kampala’s Mulago Hospital after treating a patient in an isolation ward, the Reuters report said. On Uganda’s border with Kenya, health officials from Kenya are screening people entering the country, Dr James Nyikal, the country’s head of medical services, told the BBC today. CDCinformation about Ebola Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi told members of parliament that a state-of-emergency is an urgent matter that will be discussed at a cabinet meeting tomorrow, All Africa reported. However, Tom Ksiazek, MD, chief of the special pathogens branch at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said it’s too early to say if the new Ebola strain in milder, the Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday. Meanwhile, members of parliament in Uganda today calledon the government to declare a state of emergency and quarantine areas affected by the Ebola outbreak, All Africa News reported today. A report from the BBC today, citing other media reports, said the medical workers became infected with the Ebola virus because they lacked safety equipment. However, Zaramba told Reuters, “All medical staff dealing with Ebola have been issued with protective gear.” Uganda’s health ministry said 58 cases have been confirmed in laboratory tests so far, Reuters reported today. Dec 6, 2007 (CIDRAP News) The number of people in Uganda suspected of being infected with a new strain of the Ebola hemorrhagic fever virus has grown to 93, and 22 have died, including four healthcare workers, according to news reports. Patients have had some unusual initial symptoms, such as vomiting, with the new Ebola strain, WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl said in a previous AP report. For the other known strains, initial symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain, according to the CDC. Some patients have internal and external bleeding. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for the disease. See also: Health officials in Uganda say the new Ebola strain seems to have a low death rate when compared with other lethal Ebola strains, according to Reuters. The new strain has a 22%death rate compared with 50% to 90% for the other deadly strains. Asiya Odugleh-Kolev, a W HO communications official who has worked on several Ebola outbreaks, said a milder Ebola strain might be problematic, because it could spread unnoticed and be confused with other diseases, the AP reported. The outbreak was first reported on Nov 30 by the World Health Organization (WHO), which said a new subtype of the virus was found to be sickening people in Bundibugyo district in western Uganda. Four Ebola subtypes have previously been identified: Zaire, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, and Reston. “We need to take radical measures if we are to save our people from this deadly virus,” said Theodore Ssekikubo, who represents Rwemiyaga in Ssembabule district, during the parliament session today, according to the All Africa report. Nov 30 CIDRAP News story “WHO reports new Ebola virus subtype in Uganda” Some healthcare workers have threatened to strike unless they receive risk pay and adequate protective equipment, the BBC report said.
Feb 5, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Livestock officials in Bangladesh said H5N1 avian influenza outbreaks have now struck poultry in 35 of the country’s 64 districts, as officials in India issued a statewide poultry ban in West Bengal, where outbreaks have recently flared in more than half of the districts.Biddyut Kumar Das, scientific officer for Bangladesh’s livestock department, said nearly 50,000 birds were slaughtered on Feb 3, the biggest one-day cull since the virus first surfaced in the country in February2007, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. The birds were slaughtered after officials detected the virus at 10 farms in Kushtia district near Dhaka, the capital, the AFP report said.”The situation is not good. There is no sign of improvement,” Das told AFP.In India, officials have banned the sale and consumption of poultry throughout West Bengal to control the virus, according to a report from Reuters today. Anisur Rahaman,West Bengal’s animal resources minister, said poultry sales had previously been banned only in the 13 districts (out of 19 total) that have reported recent H5N1 outbreaks.State officials said more than 3.4 million birds have been culled since the outbreak was first reported in mid January, according to Reuters.Tests for the H5N1 virus were negative for at least 23 people, including veterinary workers, who were being treated in isolation units for suspicious symptoms, Reuters reported. “But we are still keeping a close watch,” said Sanchita Bakshi, West Bengal’s director of health services,In related developments, animal health officials in India today accused the country’s western neighbor, Bangladesh, of refusing to share genetic test results on H5N1 viruses isolated in poultry outbreaks, according to a Times of India report. The findingswould help India determine the source of the outbreaks in West Bengal, the Times report said. India has pointed to Bangladesh as the likely source of the West Bengal outbreaks, according to previous reports.Bangladeshi officials have told the external affairs ministry that the H5N1 virus strain circulating in the country has not been sequenced, according to the Times report. However, a senior animal husbandry minister who requested anonymity told the Times that a World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reference laboratory in Weybridge, England, has already sequenced the virus, but can’t share the results without clearance from Bangladesh.Elsewhere, animal health officials in Pakistan yesterday reported two new H5N1 outbreaks at farms near Karachi, according to a report from the OIE. The outbreak killed 4,180 4-week old broiler chickens at the two farms; the remaining 7,518 birds were destroyed to contain the outbreak, according to the OIE report.Twelve workers from the farm have been isolated and are being tested for the virus by a team from the World Health Organization (WHO), according to a report today from Reuters.Pakistan’s last reported H5N1 outbreak occurred in the remote North-West Frontier province in November 2007, an event linked to a probable family cluster of human H5N1 cases that included the country’s first confirmed case.Meanwhile, authorities in Turkey today confirmed a new H5 outbreak in poultry in the northwestern part of the country, the Anatolia news agency reported today, according to AFP.The outbreak occurred in a village in Sakarya province, according to a statement released to Anatolia by the governor’s office, the AFP report said. Further tests are under way to determine if the virus is the highly pathogenic strain.A few days earlier, Turkey had reported an avian flu outbreak in the Black Sea coastal town of Samsun, about 370 miles east of Sakarya, according to AFP. The country reported its first H5N1 outbreak of 2008 on Jan 22, according to a report from the OIE. That outbreak hit backyard poultry at a village on the Black Sea coast in thecountry’s northwestern province of Zonguldak.Animal health officials in Bulgaria reported a highly pathogenic H7 influenza virus in a mallard duck shot by a hunter in Shumen province in the country’s northeast, according to a Feb 1 report from the OIE.See also:OIE reports on 2008 Pakistani outbreaks
Routine screening of donated blood identified 352 people as apparently infected with WNV in 2007, the report states. Of these, 281 had no symptoms, 5 later fell ill with WNND, and 66 later had West Nile fever. In a report on WNV activity in 2007, the CDC said 1,227 cases of West Nile neuroinvasive disease (WNND)the most severe formwere reported last year, with 117 deaths. There were 2,350 reported cases of West Nile fever and 53 unspecified cases, the agency said in the Jul 4 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The west-central United States had the heaviest burden of WNND cases, according to the report. North Dakota had the highest incidence, at 7.7 cases per 100,000 residents, followed by South Dakota (6.2), Wyoming (4.6), Montana (4.0), and Colorado (2.2). WNND cases peaked in the first week of August, and 89% of them occurred during July, August, and September. See also: The report notes that clinical cases are believed to represent a fairly small proportion of all WNV infections. Serologic surveys suggest that only about 20% of infections result in West Nile fever and 0.7% of infections lead to WNND. Accordingly, the CDC estimates that 175,000 Americans were infected and 35,000 had West Nile fever last year, though only 2,350 fever cases were reported. The report says WNND cases are the most accurate index of overall West Nile incidence, because West Nile fever cases probably are often missed or not reported. The WNND cases in 2007 represent an incidence of 0.4 cases per 100,000 people, the same as in 2004 and 2005 and slightly below the 2006 level of 0.5. In 2002 and 2003 the rate was double that, at 1.0. So far this year the CDC has reported only 13 WNV cases in seven states. In 2006 there were 4,269 reported cases, including 1,459 WNND cases, 2,616 cases of fever, and 177 deaths. “The relative stability in the number of reported WNND cases during the past 4 years likely represents endemic WNV transmission in the continental United States,” the CDC report states. “However, because of variation in [mosquito] vectors, avian amplifying hosts, human activity, and environmental factors (e.g., temperature and rainfall), predicting future WNV transmission intensity is difficult.” While surveillance for WNV in birds focuses mainly on crows, jays, and magpies, the virus has been found in 321 bird species since 1999, the report says. Although a human WNV vaccine is currently being tested, none is available yet. Consequently, prevention is a matter of protecting oneself from mosquito bites by using insect repellent, keeping skin covered, and avoiding exposure at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, the CDC advises. WNV made its first appearance in the western hemisphere in New York City in 1999 and quickly spread across the country in the ensuing years, carried by birds and transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. In 2007 the disease struck in 25% of US counties (775 of 3,142) in 44 states, the CDC says. CDC. West Nile virus activityUnited States, 2007. MMWR 2008 Jul 4;57(216):720-3 [Full text] Jul 3, 2008 (CIDRAP News) The United States had 3,630 reported human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) disease in 2007, indicating that the incidence has stayed about the same for the past 4 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today. CDC West Nile virus pagehttp://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm
Dec 11, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Agriculture officials in Hong Kong today confirmed that the avian influenza virus that recently hit a large commercial chicken farm was the lethal H5N1 strain, as authorities vowed to explore potential protection gaps in the poultry vaccine and the possibility that smuggled eggs might be a source of the virus.Jolly Choi, spokeswoman for Hong Kong’s agriculture, fisheries, and conservation department said earlier tests on Dec 9 were positive for an H5 virus, but further testing showed that three chickens found dead on the farm had the H5N1 subtype, according to a report today from the Associated Press.Meanwhile, York Chow, Hong Kong’s secretary for food and health, told reporters at a press conference yesterday that experts are focusing on two lines of investigation: a possible biosecurity lapse at the farm and if a change in the circulating virus has hobbled Hong Kong’s poultry vaccine.The outbreak, China’s first on a farm since 2003, prompted the culling of more than 80,000 birds and restrictions on poultry imports.Chow said Hong Kong been using an H5N2 vaccine manufactured in the Netherlands since 2003. “Over the last few years it has been proven to be effective, but we also think that because the change of the virus, we might have to look for a more appropriate vaccine,” he said in a government press release.The Chinese mainland has been using H5N1 vaccine for poultry over the past few years, which is modified periodically, Chow said, adding that veterinary officials have contacted mainland authorities to explore if a switch to the H5N1 vaccine would be more protective. He said that government officials would also be seeking guidance from experts at Hong Kong University, where vaccine studies in poultry have already been under way since June.So far there is no evidence that the virus has spread to other farms, Chow said in the statement. Investigators have collected samples from farms to conduct polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, and the results should be available in a day or two.In other developments, poultry trade representatives in Hong Kong said today that smuggled fertilized eggs from China could be the source of the recent H5N1 outbreak, according to a report today from Agence France-Presse (AFP).The Hong Kong Poultry Wholesalers Association said smuggling has become more common since the government banned the import of 1-day-old chickens from China as an H5N1 prevention measure earlier this year, the AFP report said.The South China Morning Post reported today that the eggs, ostensibly imported as food, contain potentially infected embryos that are less than a week from hatching, according to AFP. However, the owner of the farm that was struck by the H5N1 virus denied having smuggled any fertilized eggs from China, the report said.Elsewhere, health ministry officials in India said today that the H5N1 virus has now spread to six of 27 districts in Assam state, according to a report from Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).Parthajyoti Gogoi, a health ministry official, told IANS that more than 200,000 chickens and ducks have been culled since the outbreak was first detected 2 weeks ago. The culling activities have affected 200 villages in Kamrup (Metro), Kamrup (Rural), Dibrugarh, Nalbari, Barpeta, and Chirang districts.He said teams of doctors and paramedics are taking measures to prevent human H5N1 infections, the report said.See also:Dec 10 Hong Kong government press conference transcript