A spokesperson for Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) said the H5 virus, which can cause the respiratory disease avian influenza, was found in a chilled sample of chicken meat.
It came from a shop in Mong Kok, a popular shopping district in Hong Kong. The vendor imported the meat from Huidong County Baishisheng Agricultural, a poultry processing plant in Guangdong, China.
The threat of people contracting bird flu through contact with chicken meat remains “very slim” because the virus does not multiply on dead animals, according to the FEHD.
Still, members of the public have been urged to pay extra attention to personal hygiene when handling chickens. Government advice is this: never touch the mouth, nose or eyes of poultry birds, and hands should be washed thoroughly before and after handling live birds. It is also important to remember that heat can kill the bird flu virus, so consumers should cook poultry at a high temperature to avoid any lingering threat of contracting the virus.
After the H5 virus was detected by the government on Tuesday 23 January, FEHD said it had “stepped up” surveillance of poultry vendors.
Hong Kong also suspended trade with the processing plant in Guangdong that supplied the shop with bird flu-infected chicken meat. In a further bid to protect the public from poultry that could be unfit for human consumption, Hong Kong has launched a crackdown on illegally imported chilled poultry from China to Hong Kong.
It has also called on China to assist with its investigation into, and surveillance of, bird flu.
In 2016-17, more than 100 people in China died as a result of bird flu, although it was the H7N9 strain that was responsible.