Hong Kong health authorities suspended the sale of live poultry after traces of the H7N9 virus were detected in faeces samples collected from one of the markets.
The city's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said in a statement the presence of the virus was confirmed after an analysis of some samples taken from the Yan Oi live poultry market, one among the 29 in the city, EFE news reported.
‘H7N9 strain is one of the most serious among avian flu viruses and affects birds as well as humans, triggering respiratory damage and affects the functioning of vital organs.’
Thereafter, in accordance with protocols for prevention of the spread of the virus, all distribution and sale operations of live poultry in Hong Kong have been suspended, even as authorities examine the possibility of preventive culling of the birds.
A spokesman from the phytosanitary department said the market where the viral strain was detected, in Tuen Mun district, had two such stalls, only one out of which tested positive for H7N9.
"No sample from the other stall tested positive," he said, adding the affected stall sold poultry, including chickens and pigeons.
Following the results, authorities ordered closure of the market for disinfection, while still trying to locate the source of the infected birds and have initiated a mass inspection in all poultry farms across Hong Kong.
Health Minister Ko Wing-man said authorities will conclude risk assessment to decide if all the birds in the markets need to be culled and to decide the duration of the suspension.
Ko added import of live poultry has also been suspended, as it remains unknown if the infected birds originated from Hong Kong or Chinese markets.
Discovered in 2013 around Shanghai and other areas in eastern China, it has infected close to 400 people, of whom over a hundred have died since then.