Around 20,000 chickens on the way to Hong Kong from mainland China were slaughtered after being found with the deadly H7N9 bird flu virus. H7N9, or avian flu, has brought concerns to people in Hong Kong because of the rising number of humans affected. Two men who recently returned to Hong Kong from China died and were found to have been infected with the H7N9 strain.
It is believed that the virus originated from live poultry, which gets transmitted to humans who eat infected meat like chicken. Chickens are a big part of Chinese and Hong Kong cuisine. With the coming of the Lunar New Year, many customers were expecting to buy live chickens, but now need to resort to frozen ones because of the fear of the virus. The confiscated chickens were culled by administering a “chemical treatment” to kill them before putting them all in a landfill. Concerns on the safety of poultry imported from China forced the Hong Kong government to test the imports. However, local farmers decry the imports, as they see it affecting their own poultry, being mixed with the imported ones from China. A wholesaler named Cheng Chin-keung said, “The government should be held fully responsible.” Further adding that live chicken imports must already be stopped and quarantined at the border checkpoints until proven free of the virus. Culling both local and imported chickens would cost the farmers huge losses, as selling of live poultry has been suspended in light of the outbreak. Ko Wing-man, Hong Kong’s city health minister said that a “mechanism” is already being planned by the government to separate the local from the imported ones.
Some farmers and traders took to a demonstration outside Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying’s residence in protest of the slaughter. But Leung countered and cast doubt on the tradition of buying live chickens saying, ‘”In the long run, should we keep the customs of eating live chickens? Hong Kong people should look into this issue.” While the H7 virus has been in existence in bird populations, the H7N9 strain have affected humans who had direct contact with an infected livestock. The new strain is easier to transmit to humans and is known to have caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome to the affected people, with some dying of it.