Hong Kong’s government has ordered the temporary suspension of trade live poultry imports and supplies from local farms as a contingency measure after a sample of poultry droppings tested positive for the H7N9 avian influenza virus at the weekend.

The government’s food and environmental hygiene department confirmed yesterday (5 June) the sample had been taken from a poultry stall in Yan Oi Market, Tuen Mun, on 16 May as part of a routine surveillance programme for avian influenza.

Talks were underway today involving several government departments on how long the suspension should remain in place, the government said.

The stall concerned sells live chickens and pigeons. There are two poultry stalls in the market but H7N9 was not detected in the other stall, the government said.

The food and environmental hygiene department “thoroughly cleaned and disinfected the two stalls”, the government said. “However, in accordance with the contingency plan for the detection of avian influenza, trading of live poultry will be suspended until the virus source is traced.”

Hong Kong’s food and health secretary Dr Ko Wing-man said a number of government departments are working together to trace the source of the virus. He said experts will make a risk assessment based on information gathered “to determine the way forward, including whether to slaughter live poultry at the Cheung Sha Wan temporary wholesale poultry market”.

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In January 2015 Hong Kong last suspended live poultry imports from mainland China after avian influenza was detected in a consignment of imported chickens.