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Hong Kong culls 17,000 chickens on bird flu fear

TOKYO, Dec 21 (KUNA) -- Hong Kong culled more than 17,000 chickens at a poultry market Wednesday after a chicken carcass there tested positive for the H5N1 avian influenza virus, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of the city's government declared the market an infected place, which would be closed until January 12.
Food and Health Secretary York Chow raised the city's response level for bird flu to 'serious' from 'alert' after the discovery of the virus in the carcass. Chow announced Tuesday that a chicken carcass sample taken from the Cheung Sha Wan Temporary Wholesale Poultry Market was tested positive of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus during regular surveillance.
The city's government is tracing the source of the carcass and it is not known whether the chicken was from a local farm or imported. All 30 chicken farms in Hong Kong were inspected on Tuesday, and no abnormality was detected.
Local farms are prohibited from sending chickens to the market for 21 days. "To safeguard public health, we need to adopt decisive and effective measures to prevent and control the spread of the virus," Chow was quoted as saying.
Bird flu is a contagious disease of animal origin caused by viruses that normally infect only birds and, less commonly, pigs. More than 300 people worldwide have died from bird flu since 2003, according to the World Health Organization. (end) mk.hb KUNA 211804 Dec 11NNNN