Trading of live poultry has been suspended in Hong Kong as the bird flu virus H7N9 was identified in a sample of fecal droppings.
Many consumers hope the suspension will end as soon as possible, as they plan to eat chicken during the Dragon Boat Festival on Thursday.
Sellers warned that chicken prices may double when trading resumes.
A sample of fecal droppings of live poultry taken from a poultry stall in Yan Oi Market in Tuen Mun on May 16 tested positive on Saturday for H7N9, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said Sunday.
The supply of chickens from local farms has been suspended, and the import of live poultry will also be suspended, a statement on the government’s website said.
The suspension is pending follow-up investigations to trace the source of the H7N9 virus, it said.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has so far investigated more than nine local farms.
A cross-departmental meeting was held Monday morning to discuss how long the suspension should continue.
It took 20 days to identify the H7N9 virus from fecal samples, as the virus cannot be easily identified by rapid tests, Dr. Ho Pak-leung, director of the Carol Yu Centre for Infection at the University of Hong Kong.
Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said that although the test result came 20 days after the samples were taken, there is no evidence that the H7N9 has spread into the community, nor any that the virus has mutated to become highly infectious.
The Hospital Authority said it will keep track of any symptoms of patients related to H7N9.
Poultry wholesaler Regal Cheng Chin-keung said it is unfair to suspend trading just because of a single sample.
The government should speed up tracing the source of the virus and resume trading as soon as possible, said some local sellers, who don’t want to miss the opportunities for business related to the Dragon Boat Festival.
The Hong Kong and Kowloon Poultry Dealers and Workers Association said each retail store will lose up to HK$100,000 (US$12,900) if the trading of live poultry is suspended for a long time.
Because of the disruption in supply, the price of chicken may double when trading resumes, it said.
Translation by Chloe Chow
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