Chicken sample from Hong Kong vendor positive for bird flu virus, as officials urge calm after its sale
Food safety authority says ‘very slim’ chance of infection if product properly handled
A chilled chicken sample from mainland China found to contain a bird flu virus was confirmed on Tuesday to have been sold by a Hong Kong vendor, but officials stressed the contamination was unlikely to sicken consumers.
A spokesman for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced that the H5 virus, which can cause the respiratory disease avian influenza, was detected in a sample obtained from a batch of chilled chicken at a fresh provision shop in Mong Kok.
The shop is located on Canton Road and near Nam Tau Street.
But the public is being told infection is unlikely if the meat was properly handled.
“Since avian influenza virus in the carcass ... will not multiply, the chance of contracting [the disease] through properly treated chilled poultry meat is very slim,” he added.
Department officers earlier collected throat swabs from the batch to test for avian flu. The chicken was produced on January 15, and the department did not disclose when the sample was taken.
“Investigations showed that only chilled poultry was sold by the premises concerned and no sale of live poultry was found,” the spokesman said. “The affected batch of chilled chickens was sold out.”
Officials have asked the shop to carry out thorough cleaning and disinfection.
In addition, vendors have been asked to suspend the procurement or sale of chilled chickens from the involved processing plant from the mainland, which is named Huidong County Baishisheng Agriculture Co Ltd, located in neighbouring Guangdong province.
Relevant mainland authorities have been invited to help in the investigation.
Poultry surveillance would also be stepped up in light of the incident, the spokesman added.
The city’s Centre for Health Protection urged the public to stay alert against avian influenza. People who have recently handled chilled chickens from the concerned batch and developed fever or respiratory symptoms within seven days are advised to immediately seek medical advice and tell their doctor about their exposure.
The latest case surfaced after the department revealed on January 12 that traces of H5N6, a subtype of bird flu virus, were detected at a fresh provision shop in Wan Chai. The virus was found in a swab of a chopping board and in skin swabs of a chilled duck sample.
The public has been asked not to touch their mouth, nose or eyes when handling poultry products or eggs. As high temperatures can kill the avian flu virus, poultry meat should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.