|Credit HK CHP|
One of the things that sets the LPAI H7N9 virus apart from HPAI H5 viruses like H5N1 and H5N6 is that while it can cause significant morbidity and mortality in humans, it doesn’t cause illness or death in poultry – making it very difficult to detect.
Hong Kong is particularly sensitive to the threat posed by avian flu viruses, as they were the site of the first outbreak of human H5N1 in 1997, which produced 18 cases and 6 deaths.
Six years later they were hit again, this time by SARS, which saw 1750 of their residents infected and resulted in 286 deaths (see SARS And Remembrance).
Which is why Hong Kong trains continually, holds yearly drills, and conducts intensive year round surveillance to be ready when the next serious infectious disease turns up on their doorstep (see Hong Kong’s AFCD Holds Bird Flu Exercise).
While no human infections have been reported, this discovery will spark an immediate and aggressive response. This from Hong Kong's CHP.
Today Hong Kong authorities have announced the discovery - through routine environmental testing of poultry markets - of the H7N9 virus at a poultry stall in Tuen Mun.
Faecal droppings of live poultry from Yan Oi Market in Tuen Mun tested positive of H7N9 virus
A spokesman for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) said today (June 5) that under the routine surveillance programme for avian influenza (AI) at markets and fresh provision shops which is commissioned by the department and conducted by the University of Hong Kong, a sample of faecal droppings of live poultry taken from a poultry stall in Yan Oi Market in Tuen Mun on May 16 was tested positive yesterday (June 4) of the H7N9 avian influenza virus. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) will declare the live poultry stalls at Yan Oi Market in Tuen Mun as an infected place which will be closed for thorough disinfection and cleansing.
The spokesman said, "There are two poultry stalls in Yan Oi Market and there is no sample from the other stall tested positive of H7N9 virus. The affected stall sells live poultry, including live chickens and pigeons. The FEHD, upon receiving the test result, has immediately conducted thorough cleansing and disinfection at the two stalls and is tracing the source of the poultry."
In accordance with the contingency plan for detection of AI virus in Hong Kong, trading of live poultry will be suspended pending follow-up investigations to trace the source of the virus.
Supply of chickens from local farms have been suspended. The AFCD will conduct inspection on all local chicken farms and collect samples for AI testing in order to ascertain that none of the local farms or chickens have been infected with AI. Import of live poultry will also be suspended.
The AFCD will continue with the surveillance and monitoring of local chicken farms. It has requested all poultry farmers to immediately report any abnormalities and adhere strictly to the biosecurity measures at the farms. The AFCD will notify the World Organisation for Animal Health of the incident.
For AI prevention, the FEHD has implemented a number of measures at public market stalls selling live poultry, including enhanced inspections and ensuring strict compliance with the requirement of "no overnight stocking", that is, live poultry stall operators must slaughter all live poultry in the stalls before 8pm every evening and no live poultry can be kept on the premises between 8pm and 5am the following day. In addition, all public areas at the markets are cleansed three times a day by the market cleaning contractors. Live poultry stall operators are also required to clean their stalls after the close of business every day, after which the market cleaning contractors will clean and disinfect the stalls once again.
The spokesman pointed out that the FEHD has commissioned the University of Hong Kong to conduct routine AI surveillance at markets and fresh provision shops. Each month, a total of 300 faecal and drinking samples are taken from 30 venues, including 25 live poultry stalls at FEHD markets and five licensed fresh provision shops with endorsement to sell live poultry, for AI testing, with the aim to reduce the possibilities of the spread of AI virus in Hong Kong.
The spokesman said the Government will remain vigilant and implement diligently a series of risk management measures to safeguard public health and hygiene.
Ends/Sunday, June 5, 2016
Issued at HKT 02:28