Families continued to snap up chicken over the Lunar New Year holidays, despite reports of two people infected with bird flu in a southern Chinese province.
The two people - a 21-year-old woman and 31-year-old man - tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu virus in Guiyang, Guizhou province, Xinhua said on Sunday. The woman developed symptoms on February 2 and the man the next day.
Both were in critical condition, but were not believed to have passed the virus between them and did not have contact with birds before they developed symptoms, the report said.
The Ministry of Health in Beijing alerted Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection about the cases and it planned to stay in close contact with mainland authorities.
"We will heighten our vigilance and continue to maintain stringent port health measures in connection with this development," a centre spokesman said.
Local residents were reminded to avoid direct contact with poultry and their droppings, and to thoroughly wash their hands if contact was made. Poultry and eggs should be cooked thoroughly, and crowded places should be avoided, the spokesman said.
Despite the alert, chicken remained a best-seller in wet markets. At the Kowloon City market yesterday, a 2kg chicken was selling for about HK$200.
"It was cheaper last year," said one housewife. "This year it costs about HK$10 more per catty. But that's OK."
Last June parents were warned to keep children out of wet markets after a Guangzhou boy visiting Hong Kong became seriously ill with the H5N1 virus.