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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hong Kong : Chicken carcass sample found in Cheung Sha Wan Temporary Wholesale Poultry Market tested positive for H5N1 virus

Press release from Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection :

" The Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, yesterday (December 20) announced that a chicken carcass sample taken from the Cheung Sha Wan Temporary Wholesale Poultry Market (Wholesale Poultry Market) was tested positive of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus during regular surveillance of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).

Staff from AFCD found the concerned chicken carcass sample from the Wholesale Poultry Market yesterday morning. The Government is tracing the source of the chicken carcass. It is not certain at this stage whether the chicken came from local farm or was imported.

In view of the finding of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus in the local wholesale poultry market, the Government has raised the response level for avian influenza from "Alert" to "Serious".

Dr Chow convened a meeting of the Steering Committee on Avian Influenza last night, which decided to implement a series of measures to prevent the spread of the virus and to protect public health.

Measures by the Administration include the following:

(1) The Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation declared the Wholesale Poultry Market as an infected place. AFCD will cull all poultry in this market, which amounted to more than 17,000 in total number, in the morning of December 21. The Wholesale Poultry Market will be closed until January 12, 2012.

(2) Local farms are stopped from dispatching chickens to the market for 21 days. During the period, AFCD would step up inspection on local farms and collect more samples for tests in order to monitor if any of the local farms is infected. AFCD had inspected all 30 chicken farms in Hong Kong yesterday and no abnormality had been detected so far. AFCD would continue to step up inspection on local farms in the coming few days and conduct virus tests for chickens.

(3) Imports of live poultry including day-old chicks would be suspended for 21 days. The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has notified the Mainland authorities of the case. The relevant inspection and quarantine bureaux have been requested to stay alert and take all necessary precautions to prevent avian influenza in registered live poultry farms which supply Hong Kong with poultry. The Mainland authorities indicated that no abnormality has been detected from the registered live poultry farms.

(4) The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) would request all live poultry retail outlets to be thoroughly cleansed and disinfected to prevent the virus from growing and accumulating in the environment. Prohibition of overnight stocking of live poultry at all retail outlets has been implemented since 2008. As such, no live poultry was kept after 8pm last night at the retail level. In other words, there would be no live chicken supply at the retail level during the closure of the Wholesale Poultry Market.

(5) The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) would contact poultry wholesalers and workers in the Wholesale Poultry Market as well as local chicken farmers to follow up on their health condition. The Hospital Authority (HA) has prepared for contingency response measures. CHP and HA have also urged doctors and public hospitals to report any suspected case of avian influenza.

(6) The Administration has stepped up cleansing and biosecurity measures in the Hong Kong Wetland Park, and has also contacted the World Wild Fund Hong Kong requesting them to step up their biosecurity measures to reduce the risk of avian influenza in Mai Po Nature Reserve.

Dr Chow said recent detection of H5N1 virus in local wild birds indicated that the disease remained a threat to our community.

"It is unfortunate that an avian influenza case is detected before the Winter Solstice, necessitating a halt to the supply of live chickens. 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," Dr Chow said.

Dr Chow called for concerted effort from the community to guard against avian flu. Members of the public should strictly observe personal and environmental hygiene, and stay away from dead birds, avoid contact with wild birds, live poultry and their droppings. Members of the public should consult their doctors for medical advice promptly if they have fever or flu symptoms.

Dr Chow noted the incident has reflected the effectiveness of the Government's established surveillance on avian influenza virus. Such effective surveillance has enabled contingency measures to be taken swiftly."

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