|Credit http://portal.gov.mo - Jan 2017|
Macao - like Hong Kong - has been hit repeatedly by H7N9 outbreaks among imported poultry - and last December saw their first locally acquired case from (imported) poultry exposure (see Media Report: Macao Registers 1st Human H7N9 Infection).
Within weeks a second human case - imported from Guangdong Province - turned up in Macao, while early February saw the second outbreak in local poultry markets of 2017. Shortly thereafter, we saw a worried Macao Takes Steps To Protect EMS Crews From H7N9.
With each detection of the virus in local markets, sellers are shut down, poultry is culled, and disinfection of poultry stalls are ordered. Those exposed are placed in hospital isolation, poultry imports are temporarily suspended, and everyone waits to see if the virus has been contained.
So far, Macao (and Hong Kong) have been lucky. But the severity of this year's H7N9 outbreak on the Mainland has many concerned that luck may not last.Not only are live markets strongly linked to human infection with bird flu, by bringing together many different avian species (chickens, ducks, geese, quail, etc.), they provide an ideal environment for the sharing of viruses, viral reassortment, and the creation of new flu subtypes (see The Lancet: Interventions To Reduce Zoonotic & Pandemic Risks From Avian Flu In Asia).
For years there have been calls to shut down live poultry markets - in Hong Kong, Macao, and all of China - but between public resistance to the idea, and a lack of political will, shut downs have been limited, poorly enforced in some regions, and almost always temporary.
Earlier this month, in Hong Kong Releases A Poultry Plan, we looked at a proposed scheme that would allow live poultry sales to continue in Hong Kong, despite the growing risks from H7N9 and H5N6. A few days later, this plan received strong criticism in the local media (see SCMP Editorial: Enough tiptoeing around the problem of bird flu).
Yesterday Macao - which, admittedly has a fraction of the population of Hong Kong - announced a complete ban on live poultry sales beginning the 1st of May. Available instead will be chilled or frozen chicken.The fact that this is being implemented at what is normally the end of China's H7N9 season is a bit surprising. But after last summer's spate of `off season' H7N9 cases, and recent concerns that the virus has become more `heat tolerant', this summer's respite is not assured.
This statement from the Government of Macao.
Macao to impose sale ban on live poultry, starting from May
Source : Government Information Bureau
The Government has decided to ban the import and sale of all live poultry in Macao, starting from 1 May 2017.
The measure, to keep the public from having contact with live poultry, aims to protect further the community’s health, prevent diseases and maintain Macao’s stable socio-economic development.
Preventing contact between consumers and live poultry has been proven by experts to be an effective way to prevent transmission to humans of certain infective viruses. It also significantly reduces the risk of outbreaks of disease within a community and the threat that avian influenza in particular could pose to the Macao public.
Macao recorded five outbreaks of avian influenza in poultry between February 2016 and February 2017. With each event, the Government activated contingency plans in order to prevent the relevant virus from spreading further. These included culls of all live birds in the contaminated batches and temporary bans on the sale of live birds in all local markets. During the same period, Macao recorded the city’s first case of human infection from avian influenza A (H7N9) virus.
Following the sale ban on live poultry, the Government will – as always – spare no effort in monitoring the quality of chilled and frozen poultry.
In addition, the Government will remain in close touch with the local poultry industry regarding a reasonable scheme to relieve the impact of its new measure. The Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau will provide necessary assistance – within its power – to aid the industry.
Following three outbreaks of avian influenza in poultry that occurred between December 2016 and February 2017, the Government plans to provide subsidies to help affected industry participants. The subsidies will include compensation for the cull of contaminated poultry. In addition, each industry participant affected will receive a daily allowance of 200 patacas for the period in which sales were suspended following the outbreaks of avian influenza.
Despite the evidence that it would greatly reduce the transmission of the virus, closing LMBs (Live Bird Markets) has been a tough sell to the Chinese public. Purchasing live market birds is deeply ingrained in their culture, as it reassures the buyer that the bird is both fresh and healthy.
But until LBMs throughout China follow Macao's lead, their yearly epidemics - and the generation of new strains of avian flu - are likely to continue unabated for the foreseeable future.