HONG KONG - Around 15,000 birds have been culled after the H7N9 bird flu virus was detected at a market, and poultry imports from mainland China have been halted.
Hong Kong's government will kill all the 15,000 live poultry in a wholesale market in Cheung Sha Wan and close the market off for 21 days after samples of chicken imported from mainland China tested positive for the H7N9 bird flu virus, the government has announced.
South China Morning Post reports that the cull started at 10:30am on 31 December and officials from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said they could finish the cull the same day.
The government will also inspect all 27 local poultry farms and test the poultry to make sure it is safe, said the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man.
“During the closing of the Cheung Sha Wan market, the importation of live poultry from the mainland will also stop,” said Dr Ko.
The infected chickens were among a batch of around 1,200 chickens imported from a registered farm in Huizhou in Guangdong Province. Dr Ko said the farm would be subject to further inspection from mainland authorities before it could resume supplying Hong Kong with live poultry.
Tsui Ming-tuen, chairman of Hong Kong Poultry Wholesalers Association, said an important question to ask was how, under strict monitoring measures, poultry carrying bird flu viruses could still be exported out of the mainland.
In January 2014, reports South China Morning Post, 20,000 birds were culled after a chicken sample from a Guangdong supplier tested positive for H7N9 bird flu, followed by a three-week city-wide ban on the sale of live chickens.
Local wholesalers received HK$30 government compensation for each chicken culled, and breeders got about HK$30 ex gratia for each chicken that could not be sold at a prime age because of suspension of the trade.
Local sales resumed in February, while the ban on imported birds was extended until September. Some customers had complained of high price of local chicken during the time no mainland supplies were available.
The mainland had supplied 7,000 birds per day before the ban, with another 12,000 bred locally.
The first confirmed H7N9 bird flu case in Hong Kong this winter, a 68-year-old woman is in a critical condition in Tuen Mun Hospital, said a spokesman for the hospital on 30 December.
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