Hong Kong chickens could be given extra shot against H7 bird flu virus
Tests by University of Hong Kong virologist confirm the vaccine offers good protection
All live poultry in Hong Kong may soon be subjected to an extra vaccination against H7 bird flu after a recent infection at a market in the city.
The suggestion by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department will be discussed by an expert panel after a study by a virologist at the University of Hong Kong confirmed the vaccine offered good protection.
“If the panel believe we should implement the new measure, we will discuss it with local chicken farmers to see if they are willing to use it,” Dr Thomas Sit Hon-chung, the department’s chief veterinary officer, told the Post.
The department commissioned Professor Malik Peiris, HKU’s chair of virology, in March to find out whether the H7 vaccine manufactured by the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in Heilongjiang province should be introduced on locally raised chickens.
Local birds currently require two injections against H5 with a vaccine also made in Harbin.
The practice has been in place since 2012 and Sit believed it was time to review tightening the protection measures.
Peiris said about 20 chickens were injected with the H7 virus to determine the level of protection offered by the vaccine.
If the expert panel decided all local chickens should receive the H7 vaccination, the government would amend the licensing requirements to make it mandatory, Sit said.
He said the H5 vaccine cost about 50 cents a dose, and he expected the H7 vaccine to cost roughly the same.
Earlier this month the Food and Health Bureau imposed a citywide ban on live poultry trading, followed by a culling of 5,600 birds after chicken stool samples at Yan Oi Market in Tuen Mun tested positive for the H7N9 virus.