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A new test for the H7N9 virus on all live chicken sold in Hong Kong will be introduced this week, the health minister said on Monday morning.
The test, which could come by Wednesday, will be designed to get results in just a few hours, Food and Health Secretary Dr Ko Wing-man said on a RTHK radio programme. That’s a quick turnaround compared with four days for the current H7 test, which Ko calls insufficient.
All live chicken in Hong Kong – including those being raised locally or imported from the mainland on a daily basis – should undergo the test before being sold to consumers, he said.
"We have to make sure that chicken sickened by H7N9 will not be sold,” said Ko. “Once we find any chicken infected with H7N9, we will start culling.”
The mainland has culled more than 98,000 poultry and instituted a ban on public contact with pigeons, local media reported. Twenty-one cases of the avian flu have been reported, and six of the victims have died.
On Monday, a spokesman for the World Health Organisation said in Beijing that there is no proof the new strain of bird flu is being transmitted between people, despite several members of a family falling ill in Shanghai.
Ko previously said Hong Kong could not rule out the possibility of an outbreak in the city.
“We have to be prepared that H7N9, no matter if it’s in poultry or humans, may appear in Hong Kong. The possibility can’t be excluded,” he said on Saturday.
View H7N9 map in a larger map
Click on each balloon for more information on individual patients infected with the avian flu virus: blue, patients infected with the H7N9 virus under treatment; red, those infected with H7N9 who have died; and pink, those infect with the H1N1 avian flu virus.