Hong Kong culls 15,000 chickens amid bird flu alert

Hong Kong began culling thousands of chickens Wednesday after the deadly H7N9 virus was discovered in poultry imported from China, days after the city raised alert levels when a woman was hospitalised with the disease.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong began culling thousands of chickens Wednesday after the deadly H7N9 virus was discovered in poultry imported from China, days after the city raised alert levels when a woman was hospitalised with the disease.

Authorities found the bird flu virus in samples taken from 120 chickens imported from the nearby Chinese city of Huizhou, and plan to slaughter some 15,000 birds.

"The rapid testing showed... that this batch of chickens carries the H7N9 virus," the city`s health minister Ko Wing-man said Wednesday.

Televised images showed authorities beginning the cull Wednesday morning.

Poultry imports from the mainland have been banned for three weeks.

A 68-year-old woman was hospitalised with the virus last Thursday after returning to Hong Kong from the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, although it has not been confirmed how she contracted the disease.

In response to the new case -- the city`s first since early 2014 -- Hong Kong announced it was raising its response level in hospitals to "serious" from "alert", with extra precautions implemented from Sunday.

Ten people had previously been diagnosed with H7N9 in Hong Kong, including three who died. All had contracted the virus in mainland China, according to Hong Kong`s Centre for Health Protection (CHP).

The outbreak, which first emerged on the mainland in February 2013, has reignited fears that a bird flu virus could mutate to become easily transmissible between people, threatening to trigger a pandemic.

Hong Kong is particularly alert to the spread of viruses after an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome swept through the city in 2003, killing 299 people and infecting around 1,800.

Hong Kong last conducted a mass culling in January, slaughtering 20,000 chickens after the virus was found in poultry imported from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

A four-month ban on live poultry imports from mainland China was then imposed to guard against the disease.

There have been 469 cases of H7N9 in mainland China since 2013, according to Hong Kong`s CHP.

South Korea has culled millions of chickens this year in an attempt to stem the spread of bird flu, while Japan this week ordered 37,000 chickens to be culled after the third bird flu outbreak in less than a month.

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