The bird was found at the Cheung Sha Wan temporary wholesale poultry market yesterday (20 Dec). Officials have raised the level of alert for avian influenza to “serious” and are calling for people to be vigilant for any signs of the disease.
More than 17,000 birds at the market have been culled today in bid to stop the virus spreading and the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) is carrying out medical surveillance of workers in the poultry market, as well as local chicken farmers.
Officers from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation department have inspected all of Hong Kong’s 30 chicken farms. So far they have found nothing out of the ordinary but samples have been sent for further testing. Farmers have been banned from sending chickens to market for 21 days and imports of live birds have been banned for the same duration.
Hong Kong’s secretary for food and health, Dr York Chow, said: “I understand that it will cause inconvenience to the public, and the poultry trade will also encounter losses. However, to safeguard public health, we need to adopt decisive and effective measures to prevent and control the spread of the virus.”
It is not clear whether the infected bird was imported or produced locally. Dr Chow, said that that the government is considering whether to introduce tagging of live poultry to allow for easier tracing of birds in these cases.
He added that the government will conduct testing to see whether there is any connection between the infected chicken and several wild birds which have tested positive for avian influenza recently. “With that we will be able to ascertain whether the vaccines we are now using for our chickens will be effective,” he said.