Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hong Kong FEHD Finds Another Shop Selling H5 Contaminated Poultry


For the second time in less than two weeks a Hong Kong `Fresh Provision' shop has been discovered to have H5 contaminated `chilled' poultry products.  The first instance (see Hong Kong Finds Traces Of H5N6 At A Wan Chai Market) fully identified the subtype, while today's reports simply says `H5'.  
Additional testing should reveal the subtype and pathogenicity. 
Although Hong Kong tightly controls and has greatly restricted the importation of live poultry from the Mainland, `chilled' or frozen chicken is imported in large quantities from a number of outside processing plants. While far safer than live bird markets, shops that handle these products are routinely tested for the presence of AI viruses. 

Two reports today from the Hong Kong Government.  First a report on the discovery, followed by a safety message, after which I'll have a bit more.

H5 virus detected in chilled chicken sample taken from fresh provision shop in Mong Kok

A spokesman for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) said today (January 23) that the department earlier took oropharyngeal swabs from a batch of chilled chicken (production date January 15, 2018) at a fresh provision shop in Mong Kok to test for avian influenza (AI). The Veterinary Laboratory of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department confirmed that H5 virus was detected in one sample.

The spokesman said, "Upon learning the test results, the FEHD immediately stepped up its inspection of the premises concerned, and requested it to carry out thorough cleaning and disinfection, and provided health education to the staff. Investigations showed that only chilled poultry was sold by the premises and no sale of live poultry was found. The affected batch of chilled chickens had been sold out. Since AI virus on the carcass of chilled poultry will not multiply, the chance of contracting AI through properly treated chilled poultry meat is very slim.

"The FEHD has also verified the source of the affected products according to the information on the package and instructed the trade to suspend procurement or sale of chilled chickens from the Mainland processing plant concerned, Huidong County Baishisheng Agricultural Co Ltd. The department has invited the Mainland authorities concerned to assist in the investigation and will step up surveillance of poultry in light of the incident."

The spokesman advised the public to pay extra attention to personal hygiene when handling chilled poultry. They should never touch the mouth, nose, or eyes when handling any poultry, poultry products or eggs and should wash hands thoroughly with liquid soap and water afterwards. In addition, as high temperatures can kill AI virus, they should cook poultry meat thoroughly before consumption.

The Government will continue to stay vigilant and strictly carry out risk management measures. The FEHD will also mount joint operations with the Hong Kong Customs to step up enforcement against illegal import of chilled poultry meat, and maintain liaison with the Mainland authorities concerned and suitably adjust relevant measures with regard to the latest developments of AI so as to safeguard public health and environmental hygiene.

Ends/Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Issued at HKT 15:00

CHP urges public to be cautious in handling chilled poultry to guard against avian influenza 

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (January 23) urged the public to stay alert against avian influenza amid the recent detection of the H5 virus in an oropharyngeal swab sample from a batch of chilled chickens.
People who have recently handled chilled chickens imported from the Mainland processing plant Huidong County Baishisheng Agricultural Co Ltd (production date: January 15, 2018) and develop fever or respiratory symptoms within seven days are advised to seek medical advice immediately and inform their doctor of this exposure history.
According to an announcement by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today, samples were taken earlier from a batch of chilled chickens at a fresh provision shop in Mong Kok for testing of avian influenza. The H5 virus was detected from an oropharyngeal swab.
The CHP reminded the public to avoid handling the affected batch of chilled chickens. Those who are uncertain whether the chilled chicken belonged to the affected batch should refer to the external package for information about the processing plant and the production date or enquire with the retailer/shop.
Meanwhile, the CHP has initiated medical surveillance for the staff concerned and other known contacts, and will prescribe the antiviral Tamiflu prophylaxis to them if necessary. The CHP has also stepped up surveillance for possible human cases. Letters will be sent to doctors and hospitals today urging them to report any suspected cases.
To protect themselves from avian influenza, people handling chilled poultry or poultry carcasses are reminded to observe strict personal and hand hygiene. They should never touch the mouth, nose or eyes when handling any poultry, poultry products or eggs. Afterwards, they must wash their hands thoroughly with liquid soap and water.
If handling live poultry, poultry products or eggs, the public should maintain strict personal, hand, food and environmental hygiene and take heed of the advice below:

  • Avoid touching poultry, birds, animals or their droppings;
  • When buying live chickens, do not touch them and their droppings. Do not blow at their bottoms. Wash eggs with detergent if soiled with faecal matter and cook and consume the eggs immediately. Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling chickens and eggs;
  • Cook poultry meat, poultry products or eggs thoroughly before consumption as high temperatures can kill avian influenza viruses; and
  • Clean thoroughly all working surfaces, utensils and equipment that have been used for handling poultry products or eggs. Use separate knives and chopping boards to handle raw food and ready-to-eat food. Keep raw poultry meat in a well-covered container and store it in the lower compartment of a refrigerator while keeping ready-to-eat and cooked food in the upper compartment to avoid cross-contamination.
For more information, the public may visit the CHP's page on avian influenza.

Ends/Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Issued at HKT 17:15

While the risks of AI infection from chilled chicken is probably very low, it is not zero, and so keeping contaminated chicken out of the food chain is always a priority. 
Last year Russia spent months tracking down tons of contaminated poultry (mostly turkey) products that were shipped from the Rostov region to suppliers and shops all over the country (see Rosselkhoznador: HPAI Contaminated Poultry Shipped To At Least 9 Regions Of Russia).
Beyond the uncertain public health threat, a loss in confidence in the safety of the heavily promoted `chilled' chicken alternative to live bird markets - particularly just 3 weeks before the Chinese New Year - would be a major economic and public relations blow.

Two separate detections of H5 in imported chicken in Hong Kong is a reminder that - while we've heard very little about bird flu from the Chinese Mainland officials these past few months - the virus is far from gone.

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