Jun 9, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Authorities in Hong Kong recently reported finding H5N1 avian influenza at a poultry market, marking the first detection of the virus in poultry there in more than 2 years.
Animal health officials detected the H5N1 virus in five chicken dropping samples from three poultry stalls, according to a Jun 7 press release from Hong Kong's information services department. Officials ordered all 2,700 birds at the market to be culled and planned to disinfect the market. The release didn't mention whether any chickens were sick or died.
Over the past several years, Hong Kong has filed several reports of individual sick or dead wild birds that tested positive for the H5N1 virus. However, the special administrative region of China hasn't had a major poultry outbreak since 1997, when 18 people were hospitalized with H5N1 infections and 6 died, all after having contact with birds. An avian flu timeline prepared by the World Health Organization says that two chickens in Hong Kong tested positive for H5N1 in the early months of 2006.
York Chow, Hong Kong's secretary for food and health, said in the press release that officials have traced the infected birds to a specific wholesale poultry market, but the chickens could have come from either local or mainland farms. He said imports of live chickens from the mainland and shipments from local sources would stop for 3 weeks to allow authorities to trace the source of the infected birds.
The region's food and environmental hygiene department has tightened inspections of 64 other markets that have poultry stalls and will be collecting more chicken droppings for testing, the press release said. Officials will also inspect mainland farms that supply birds to Hong Kong and collect samples from local wholesalers.
Government officials will also increase inspections of chilled poultry products from the mainland, as well as local retail markets and poultry farms, according to the press statement.
"If another case of avian influenza is found in other retail market in Hong Kong, the government will cull all the chickens in the retail level," Chow said.
Medical authorities were monitoring employees who worked at the three affected poultry stalls.