Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Hong Kong to cull thousands of hamsters due to Covid cases at a pet store.

Hong Kong to cull thousands of hamsters due to Covid cases at a pet store.

Hong Kong will kill more than 2,000 hamsters and ban the importation of small animals after a pet store worker, a customer and at least 11 hamsters tested positive for the delta coronavirus.

Officials said on Tuesday it is unclear whether the virus has been transmitted to humans from imported hamsters. But they urged residents to turn in hamsters imported since December 22 for testing and euthanasia to prevent further spread.

“They shed the virus, and the virus can infect other animals, other hamsters, as well as humans,” said Thomas Sith, deputy director of the Hong Kong Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation. “We do not want to kill all animals, but we must protect the health of the population and animals. We have no choice – we must make a firm decision.”

The cluster was traced to a worker at the Little Boss pet shop in the Causeway Bay area of ​​Hong Kong Island, who was confirmed on Monday to have contracted the delta variant. Further testing revealed another infection in a client who had a short deal with a female worker during a cage swap and hamster food purchase with her daughter on Jan. 7. A preliminary test showed that the client’s husband also contracted the coronavirus.

Further testing revealed 11 infected hamsters at the store and positive samples from cages at the company’s warehouse. Public health officials said they found no precedent for the transmission of coronavirus to humans from pet hamsters, but noted that hamsters were infected in laboratories.

Officials said two shipments of hamsters from the Netherlands were of particular concern, including about 1,800 delivered on December 22 and more than 800 arriving on January 7.

All hamsters in the city’s 34 licensed stores will be taken for testing and then discarded, officials said. Anyone who has purchased a hamster after December 22 is being asked to submit the animal for testing and euthanasia.

Pet stores that sell hamsters will also be closed for cleaning, and authorities will test rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs. Stores may reopen once these animals have been proven not to be infected.

Hong Kong, which has a painful history of infectious diseases, including nearly 300 SARS deaths in 2003, has taken aggressive measures in the past to reduce the risk of animal transmission. In 1997, more than a million chickens — all the chickens on the property — were slaughtered to stop the spread of the avian flu virus, and since then, the city has conducted fewer culls when infected birds are found.

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