Photo Credit Hong Kong Government
Although we’ve heard of very little H7N9 activity out of China over the summer, avian influenza is largely a seasonal virus and so many scientists expect this emerging virus resurface on the Chinese mainland again this fall and winter (see FAO Warns On Bird Flu).
Nowhere has attention been more focused on the return of this virus than in Hong Kong, which was the site of the first human cluster of H5N1 infection more than 16 years ago and which bore the brunt of the SARS outbreak in 2003 (see SARS and Remembrance).
In 2010, Hong Kong saw their first human infection from the H5N1 virus since 2003, and in 2011 (see Hong Kong Raises Alert Level On Finding H5N1 Positive Poultry) authorities culled thousands of chickens after a single bird was found infected with H5N1.
Throughout the summer the public has been reminded of the importance of good flu hygiene (see Hong Kong’s Response To Guangdong H7N9 Case), while public health officials have formulated plans to deal with the possible return of the virus this winter. Today (October 8th) the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) conducted an avian influenza exercise to test their readiness for an outbreak of H7N9 (or any other avian influenza) in Hong Kong’s Special Administration Region.
This press release from the Hong Kong government:
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) conducted a field simulation exercise today (October 8) to review the department's preparedness in case a poultry culling operation is required in response to an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Hong Kong.
Code-named Dandelion, the exercise provided a scenario for staff of departments that need to take part in the culling operation to familiarise themselves with the work procedures and biosecurity measures for carrying out the operation, and to identify areas for improvement in the response plans.
The exercise focused on the overall on-site preparation and implementation of biosecurity measures, such as the procedures for wearing and removing protective gear, as well as the disinfection and disposal of carcasses.
A field command centre and a mock chicken farm were set up for participants to carry out their front-line duties, which included mobilising staff and resources, setting up different operation areas in the index farm, and following personal biosecurity guidelines when entering and leaving the index farm.
The Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, accompanied by the Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation, Mr Alan Wong, observed the front-line operations.
Dr Ko stressed the importance of putting in place the contingency response plan to ensure the AFCD's preparedness and readiness in case a culling operation in Hong Kong is necessary.
"The occurrence of avian influenza outbreaks in different parts of the region over the past few years, coupled with the avian influenza A(H7N9) cases earlier this year, indicates that the threat of avian influenza still persists and we should not take it lightly.
"The whole society, including the Government and the poultry trade, as well as the general public, must remain vigilant and guard against the avian influenza virus becoming active again. There is no room to relax the avian influenza prevention and control measures," he said.
He pointed out that apart from rolling forward various prevention and control measures, the Government had stepped up surveillance before the winter season. These measures include conducting surprise inspections targeting local poultry farms and pet bird shops, the collection of more samples from the wholesale poultry market and retail outlets for tests on avian influenza, and enhanced actions to combat illegal importation of live birds at boundary control points.
Some 100 staff members of the AFCD and the Civil Aid Service took part in the exercise. Dr Ko thanked them for their efforts and positive contributions to the smooth running of the exercise.
The AFCD has notified the World Organisation for Animal Health of the exercise.
Ends/Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Issued at HKT 17:29