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Live poultry imported from Mainland tested positive for H7 avian influenza virus

     The Government today (December 31) confirmed that a number of samples from a consignment of live chickens from a registered farm in Huicheng District of Huizhou in Guangdong were positive in H7 avian influenza (AI) Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests.

     The Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, said that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSARG) had decided to implement contingency measures in accordance with the Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic on the Serious Response Level to prevent the virus from spreading and safeguard public health.

     The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has declared the Cheung Sha Wan Temporary Wholesale Poultry Market as an infected place. All of the some 15 000 live poultry in the market will be culled starting from this morning. The market will also be closed for 21 days (counting from the next day following completion of the culling operation) for thorough cleansing and disinfection. During the closure period, trading of live poultry will be suspended.

     "During the closure of the wholesale market, AFCD would inspect all local farms and collect more samples for testing. Upon confirmation that all local chicken farms are not affected by AI, local chickens could be dispatched to retail points via the Ta Kwu Ling Checkpoint," Dr Ko said.

     In accordance with the consensus reached with the Mainland on the handling of H7 AI cases, the HKSAR Government has notified the relevant Mainland authorities of the incident to facilitate investigation of the source of infection. Supply of live poultry from the index registered farm would be suspended, during which the relevant inspection and quarantine authorities will conduct investigation at the farm concerned and ascertain that the farm has met all of the biosecurity and management requirements. Upon expiry of the 21-day suspension period, the relevant inspection and quarantine authorities will notify the HKSAR Government of the investigation result. The farm concerned will resume supply of live poultry to Hong Kong only upon acceptance of the investigation result by both sides.   

     AFCD, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the  Centre for Food Safety (CFS) will also strengthen the surveillance and control measures against H7N9 along the supply chain of live poultry.   

     Dr Ko stressed, "The HKSAR Government has built up a resilient and stringent system and collaborated closely with the Mainland authorities for the surveillance and control of AI. We have since April 2013 introduced the PCR testing for H7 AI, and since January 2014 introduced the H7 serological testing to strengthen early warning against AI."

     "All live poultry supplied to Hong Kong markets, whether locally reared or imported, are subject to stringent inspection and quarantine procedures.  Animal health certificates would be issued only if the test results are satisfactory. Prior to leaving the farms, the poultry are put under quarantine and are required to pass PCR and serology tests for AI to show that the poultry carry sufficient level of antibodies against H5; are free of any AI virus and do not bear AI clinical symptoms.

     "After the live poultry have entered Hong Kong, CFS will collect blood and swab samples from the live poultry at the Man Kam To Animal Inspection Station and pass the samples to AFCD's Veterinary Laboratory for testing. The detection of positive H7 AI samples in imported live poultry in the current case demonstrates that the testing system has achieved what it is designed to do, namely reducing the risk of infected birds entering our retail markets and performing its gate-keeping role for protecting public health," he added.

     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health would contact poultry wholesalers and workers in the Man Kam To Animal Inspection Station and the Cheung Sha Wan Temporary Wholesale Poultry Market to follow up on their health condition. CHP and the Hospital Authority will remind all doctors in Hong Kong and healthcare workers in public hospitals to stay vigilant and should report immediately if there is any suspected avian influenza case.

     Dr Ko appealed to the public again to maintain good personal and environmental hygiene, including washing hands frequently, wearing masks when feeling unwell, avoiding contact with live poultry or visiting live poultry markets in the affected districts, revealing their travel history to doctors and not bringing poultry to Hong Kong illegally, which are important and effective measures for preventing diseases.

Ends/Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Issued at HKT 02:37


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