Photo Credit- Wikipedia
Not so very long ago, if a dead bird were found in Hong Kong that tested positive for HPAI H5, one could have reasonably assumed the culprit to be H5N1. That was, for nearly two decades, the only HPAI H5 threat on our radar.
Things began to change about two years ago with the rapid emergence of number of new HPAI subtypes, so we must now consider H5N6, H5N8, and H5N2 as possible suspects as well.
HPAI H5N6 first showed up in Hong Kong last spring (see Wild Bird Found Infected With H5N6) carried by a peregrine falcon, and H5N8 and H5N2 are both causing havoc on the island of Taiwan, 500 miles to their east, and on the Chinese mainland.
Conceivable, but far less likely, are subtypes H5N5, H5N3, and H5N9. All have been detected on the Chinese mainland, but all remain minor players.
Hong Kong – which was the site of the first known cluster of human H5N1 cases nearly 20 years ago – is one of the few places in the world where public health authorities take notice of something as seemingly inconsequential as a single sick (or dead) bird.
We should get more specific test results narrowing down the subtype in the next few days.
Every winter, for the past decade, Hong Kong has reported the occasional wild or migratory bird with HPAI H5, and they have been blamed in the past for some poultry outbreaks. Accordingly, Hong Kong has put their well-practiced avian flu preparedness plans into motion, as they gird themselves for another winter’s bird flu season.
This announcement from Hong Kong’s News.Gov.Hk.
Preliminary testing of an Oriental magpie robin found in Kwai Chung has returned a positive result for the H5 avian influenza virus, a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said today (November 18), adding that further confirmatory tests are being conducted.
The dead bird was found and collected on the second floor staircase of Wing Yiu House, Lai Yiu Estate, Kwai Chung, yesterday (November 17). Oriental magpie robins are common resident birds in Hong Kong.
The spokesman said cleaning and disinfection have been stepped up at the venue, adding that there are no poultry farms within 3 kilometres of the location where the dead bird was found.
In view of the case, the AFCD has phoned poultry farmers to remind them to strengthen precautionary and biosecurity measures against avian influenza. Letters have been issued to farmers, pet bird shop owners and licence holders of pet poultry and racing pigeons reminding them that proper precautions must be taken.
The spokesman said the department would conduct frequent inspections of poultry farms and the wholesale market to ensure that proper precautions against avian influenza have been implemented. The department will continue its wild bird monitoring and surveillance.
"People should avoid contact with wild birds and live poultry and their droppings. They should clean their hands thoroughly after coming into contact with them. The public can call 1823 for follow-up if they come across suspicious, sick or dead birds, including the carcasses of wild birds and poultry," the spokesman said.
The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) will continue to be vigilant over imported live poultry as well as live poultry stalls. It will also remind stall operators to maintain good hygiene.
The Department of Health will keep up with its health education to remind the public to maintain strict personal and environmental hygiene to prevent avian influenza.
The AFCD, the FEHD, the Customs and Excise Department and the Police will strive to deter the illegal import of poultry and birds into Hong Kong to minimise the risk of avian influenza outbreaks caused by imported poultry and birds that have not gone through inspection and quarantine.
All relevant government departments will continue to be highly vigilant and strictly enforce preventive measures against avian influenza. Health advice is available from the "H5N1 Health Advice" page on the AFCD website at www.afcd.gov.hk.
Ends/Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Issued at HKT 20:03