HONG KONG: A cull of 20,000 chickens was under way in Hong Kong on Tuesday after the deadly H7N9 bird flu virus was found in poultry imported from mainland China, days before Lunar New Year.
Fears over avian flu have grown following the deaths of two men from the H7N9 strain in Hong Kong since December. Both had recently returned from mainland China.
The number of human cases in China this month is 102 with 22 deaths, according to an Agence France-Presse tally, and the worst-hit province of Zhejiang has closed live poultry markets in major cities there.
Officials wearing masks and protective suits piled dead chickens into black plastic bags at Hong Kong’s Cheung Sha Wan market on Tuesday, where the virus was found, television footage showed.
Cheung Sha Wan—Hong Kong’s only wholesale poultry market—is now shut for 21 days for disinfection.
Vendors are unable to buy live chickens and farmers have nowhere to send their stock, leaving traders and shoppers disappointed in the holiday period.
Traditionally Hong Kongers buy a live chicken for Lunar New Year celebrations with family.