Beware the birds

Since early April, Hong Kong has been testing imported poultry to prevent the virus being brought into the city. Government health officials are considering culling all birds in retail and wholesale markets if the virus is found. But the task is daunting, particularly as birds infected with H7N9 do not usually show symptoms. The South China Morning Post reports that 3.54 million live birds were imported from mainland China into Hong Kong last year, from 63 registered suppliers. A former senior government vet has called for a temporary ban on all Chinese chicken imports, as Malaysia has already done, to cut off the most likely source of potential transmission.

Brace for disaster

In 2003, SARS hit Hong Kong hard, killing just under 300 people. Since, the city has been investing in medical facilities to combat contagious infections capable of air transmission. The Wall Street Journal reports that Hong Kong has over 1,400 isolation beds for patient quarantine. Justin Wu, a doctor on the front line during the SARS outbreak, called Hong Kong “the best prepared city in the world.”

The city’s three-level response plan, prepared by the government with previous cases of bird flu and SARS in mind, currently has the city in a state of “alert”—level one—”where the risk of a new influenza virus causing new and serious health impact in Hong Kong is low.” But as the death toll on the mainland continues to rise and infections move closer to Hong Kong’s borders, city officials still preparing for the worst.

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