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H5N6, which first emerged in China and Laos in the spring of 2014, was detected in wild and migratory birds in Hong Kong three times last year (twice in the spring, and again last November), and today is reported for the 4th time in a dead egret found in Diamond Hill, Kowloon East.
With two human H5N6 infections reported last week from adjacent Guangdong Province, and their poultry industry at risk, the arrival of HPAI viruses like these via migratory birds is taken very seriously by Hong Kong's authorities.
Prior to 2015 it was HPAI H5N1 that was detected a handful of times each year in Hong Kong's wild and migratory bird population, and outbreaks in poultry have been attributed to their arrival.
Since we get few (if any) surveillance reports on wild bird infections from within Mainland China, we must rely on China's neighboring countries and territories to give us a sense on how efficiently their growing array of avian viruses are being carried about by migratory birds.
In late 2014, H5N8 took long distance flight via migratory birds and ended up in Taiwan, North America, and Western Europe. While H5N6 hasn't shown that kind of aptitude for rapid geographic expansion yet, we continue to watch its progress.
This from Hong Kong's AFCD.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said today (January 5) that a dead great egret found in Diamond Hill, Wong Tai Sin, was confirmed to be H5N6 positive after laboratory testing.
The dead bird was found and collected from a non-public area near Spring Hill in the Nan Lian Garden, Diamond Hill, Wong Tai Sin, last Thursday (December 31). The great egret is a common resident of Hong Kong and some are winter visitors.
The spokesman said cleaning and disinfection have been stepped up at the venue, adding that there are no poultry farms within 3 kilometres of 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/Tuesday, January 5, 2016