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Hong Kong Culls Chickens Right Before Lunar New Year

Update Date: Jan 28, 2014 09:36 AM EST

With the return of bird flu, H7N9, Hong Kong has stepped up and started culling chickens. Starting on Tuesday, government officials set out to cull around 20,000 chickens in order to prevent the spread of the avian influenza. On top of this, the government has ceased all imports of chicken from China for at least three weeks.

The government made its decision after Hong Kong authorities found the bird flu strain in a live batch of chickens that was imported from the Guangdong province this past Monday. The city has dealt with two deaths so far. In December, an 80-year-old patient, who was from Shenzhen but was treated in Hong Kong, contracted the virus and died from complications. In mid-January, a 65-year-old patient died from the bird flu after returning from Shenzhen.

As of today, China has dealt with a total of 246 cases of H7N9 since the strain was first discovered according to the Wall Street Journal. The majority of the cases have been concentrated in the eastern coast. However, officials have reported 32 cases in Guangdong, which is right next door to Hong Kong.

"It deserves high attention when the infection cases increase by dozens or hundreds of times. Currently, public panic is unnecessary given the slow transmission speed," Zhong Nanshan, director of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases in Guangdong Province, said according to Xinhua.

With the Lunar New Year approaching, the Chinese Health Minister, Ko Wing-man has recommended people to eat frozen chicken. The Lunar New Year is often celebrated with a huge feast in which chicken is a popular meal. However, due to the risks involved this year, the Chinese people will have to turn to other options. The last time Hong Kong took such drastic measures dates back to December 2011. During that time, the government culled 17,000 chickens and temporarily halted the imports of chickens for three weeks.

Hangzhou, Ningbo and Jinhua in the eastern Zhejiang Province have all suspended live poultry trading. Shanghai, which is near the Zhejiang Province, will halt live poultry trading starting on Jan. 31.

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