Hong Kong is culling 20,000 chickens and has suspended
imports of fresh poultry from mainland China for after the
discovery of the H7N9 bird flu virus in a batch of live
chickens from the southern province of Guangdong.
The government order took effect two days before celebrations
begin for Chinese New Year, when poultry sellers generally
anticipate a boom.
Authorities also ordered the closure of the wholesale poultry
market, where the virus was discovered, for 21 days until
February 18 for cleaning and disinfection. Local farms were
banned from supplying live chickens to the market.
"Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department officers
will inspect all the local chicken farms and collect more
samples for testing to ensure that local farms are not
affected by H7 avian influenza," Secretary for Food and
Health Dr Ko Wing-man said in a statement.
The H7N9 virus passes between birds, but cases in humans have
so far not shown evidence of sustained human-to-human
infection, according to the World Health Organization.
Experts have urged health authorities worldwide to be alert
to detect the H7N9 virus, which is highly pathogenic in
humans and could develop the ability to spread easily among
humans, causing an influenza pandemic and severe economic
Two people infected with H7N9 bird flu have died in Hong Kong
and a third patient is being treated. All three were infected
during visits to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
The H7N9 bird flu virus emerged in March last year and has so
far infected at least 240 people in China, Taiwan and Hong
Kong, according to the Hong Kong Department of Health.
China's official Xinhua news agency, citing the Chinese
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said 19 people had
been died of the flu in China this year.
China's Health and Family Planning Commission reported a
further nine cases of H7N9 bird flu to the World Health
Organization on Sunday and Monday.
Hong Kong last suspended live poultry imports in 2011 after a
dead chicken tested positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu
at the same market.