The city began testing imported live poultry for the H7N9 virus yesterday in response to the outbreak on the mainland which has killed 10 people.
In addition to the regular tests for the H5 virus, imported live poultry will now be subjected to the H7 rapid test before being sold, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said.
About 7,000 live chickens were imported from the mainland each day before the emergence of the new bird flu virus. The number fell to around 4,000 by last week, according to the department.
"Though bird flu is not threatening Hong Kong yet, people are worried. We have been selling fewer live chickens," said Steven Wong Wai-chuen, chairman of the Poultry Wholesalers and Retailers Association.
"As there is lower demand, fewer chickens are being imported," he said, estimating that sales of live chicken in Hong Kong have dropped by 40 per cent and that of frozen chicken is down by 20 to 30 per cent.
"It's no use lowering the prices, people are worried and they won't buy it no matter how cheap. We only hope that the source of infection will be found soon," he said.
All live poultry imports will be stopped if any bird is found to have the H7N9 virus and the government will consider culling them, the department said.
The H7N9 bird flu virus claimed another life on the mainland yesterday and five more people were confirmed to have contracted it.
That brings to 38 the number of cases confirmed by mainland authorities since the first on March 31, with 10 dead.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim visited St Francis' Canossian School in Wan Chai yesterday to inspect precautionary measures against bird flu in the school.
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 the H7N9 who have died; and pink, those with H1N1 avian flu virus.