| HONG KONG
HONG KONG Jan 28 Hong Kong began culling 20,000
chickens and suspended imports of fresh poultry from mainland
China for 21 days on Tuesday after the discovery of the H7N9
bird flu virus in a batch of live chicken from the southern
province of Guangdong.
The government order took effect two days before
celebrations begin for Chinese New Year, when poultry sellers
generally anticipate a boom.
Authorities also ordered the closure of the wholesale
poultry market, where the virus was discovered, for 21 days
until February 18 for cleaning and disinfection. Local farms
were banned from supplying live chickens to the market.
"Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department officers
will inspect all the local chicken farms and collect more
samples for testing to ensure that local farms are not affected
by H7 avian influenza," Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko
Wing-man said in a statement.
The H7N9 virus passes between birds, but cases in humans
have so far not shown evidence of sustained human-to-human
infection, according to the World Health Organization.
Experts have urged health authorities worldwide to be alert
to detect the H7N9 virus, which is highly pathogenic in humans
and could develop the ability to spread easily among humans,
causing an influenza pandemic and severe economic losses.
Two people infected with H7N9 bird flu have died in Hong
Kong and a third patient is being treated. All three were
infected during visits to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
The H7N9 bird flu virus emerged in March last year and has
so far infected at least 240 people in China, Taiwan and Hong
Kong, according to the Hong Kong Department of Health.
China's official Xinhua news agency, citing the Chinese
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said 19 people had
been died of the flu in China this year.
China's Health and Family Planning Commission reported a
further nine cases of H7N9 bird flu to the World Health
Organization on Sunday and Monday.
Hong Kong last suspended live poultry imports in 2011 after
a dead chicken tested positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu
at the same market.
(Editing by Ron Popeski)