Hong Kong is adopting a faster method of testing for the bird flu virus after the latest outbreak of the H7N9 strain.
If any samples test positive for H5 or H7 viruses, the government will immediately stop all live chicken sales, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports, citing the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD).
FEHD assistant director for operations Fork Ping-lam said the department will no longer use the conventional avian flu tests that require a waiting time of up to six days for results.
The new method will take just four to five hours, he said.
The move comes as Guangdong suspended sales of live poultry for 13 days from Thursday to curb the spread of bird flu which has seen a fifth outbreak of the H7N9 strain since its emergence in 2013.
Guangdong is the most affected province, along with Jiangsu and Zhejiang.
In Hong Kong, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said there has been a rise in the number of avian flu cases worldwide since last winter, including the H5N6 and H5N8 viruses.
Meanwhile, the number of H7N9 cases in the mainland has increased to 357 since November last year, up significantly from last winter.
Dr. Wong Ka-hing, a consultant at the Center for Health Protection, said up to 10 percent of poultry samples from Guangdong tested positive for the H7N9 virus.
About 16 percent of those coming from Jiangsu contained the virus, he said.
Dr. Thomas Sit, an assistant director for inspection and quarantine of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said the faster tests for avian flu has a higher chance of false results.
The tests will be done twice to obtain more accurate findings, he said.
Professor Yuen Kwok-yung of the University of Hong Kong said the severity of the bird flu outbreak in China has increased but the warming weather could help ease the situation.
Yuen said the chance for an outbreak in local markets is relatively low as chicken imports from the mainland have been substantially reduced.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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