Around 2,000 small animals and hamsters need to be culled after Delta virus detected, all pet shops to suspend sales of hamsters (Updated: 5.08pm)

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18th January 2022 – (Hong Kong) The government detected Delta virus in samples of hamsters in multiple stores under Little Boss in Causeway Bay when testing the animals involved in the pet store. The female employee (Case No.13047) tested positive and animal-to-human transmission is not ruled out.

Another customer who visited the store was infected with the virus. The 67-year-old female patient lives in Block A Ka Sing House, Ka Lung Court in Kellet Bay. The woman bought a hamster at Little Boss on 4th January together with her daughter and went to the shop again on 8th January where she had a conversation with the infected female employee and bought some food the for hamster. She stayed in the shop for around 10 to 15 minutes. The patient received two doses of CoronaVac vaccine. Her daughter has no symptoms but her husband is also a preliminary positive case.

Since the female employee developed symptoms on the 11th of this month, the CHP has tracked the infection period. Since 7th January, there were around 143 customers who had close contact with the female employee of which 112 were tracked by phone numbers, and the remaining 22 did not leave any phone numbers, the CHP believes that all of them are close contacts. The female employee did not work on 10th January. All customers who have been in contact with her between 7th and 15th January (except 10th January) will be subject to quarantine. The total number involves about 150 people. 

Meanwhile, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department stated that it will take preventive measures. First, it will take all the animals in the Little Boss in Causeway Bay and the warehouse in Tai Po for further testing. All animals will be culled. All pet shops selling hamsters in Hong Kong will need to suspend sales. According to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, there are 34 pet shops in Hong Kong that sell hamsters, involving 1,000 hamsters and all of them need to be culled. It is estimated that around 2000 animals have to be culled, including hamsters and small animals.

Thomas Sit, Assistant Director (Inspection and Quarantine) of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said that the more genetic sequencing is needed to confirm animal-to-human transmission or other sources of infection. However, Sit pointed out that since hamsters have been preliminarily tested positive for COVID_19, so whether or not it was human-to-animal transmission, hamsters can still pass on the virus to other animals, hamsters, or humans. He stressed that the authorities have no choice but to cull the hamsters as it is in the public interest to do so.

Sit said that if hamsters are confirmed to be infected in the laboratory, the new coronavirus will spread among the hamsters. Since the infection has never occurred in the natural environment and the hamsters of the pet store were imported by air from the Netherlands, and there was no hamster infection in the local area, so this case in Hong Kong will be the first in the world.

He went on to say that after the hamsters infected each other, their excrement will carry the virus, and it is difficult to ensure that it will not be transmitted to humans.

Dr. Leung Siu Fai, Director of Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department (AFCD) said that he was notified yesterday (17th) that there were a large number of small animals in the Little Boss shop and officers took around 125 samples for testing, including 78 chinchillas and rabbits. The samples tested for the COVID-19 virus were all from hamsters. Since this pet shop has a warehouse in Tai Po, AFCD has also collected 155 samples. There is no official result yet, but some environmental samples show a positive reaction. Hence, all the animals need to be culled. At present, all hamster shops in Hong Kong need to be closed, and small animals other than hamsters also need to be tested. Leung also pointed out that the import of all small mammals will be stopped immediately, and the import arrangements will be reviewed. He also appealed to the public for pets purchased after 22nd December last year to be handed over to the AFCD for testing.

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