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Readers with good memories will recall that repeatedly in 2009, 2010-2011, and again in 2012, we saw a number of H5N1 infected, badly decomposed poultry carcasses wash up on the beaches of Hong Kong, presumably carried to the sea via the Pearl River, which flows out of Guangdong Province, China.
The Pearl River Delta serves as a catchment area for dozens of tributaries flowing out of the highly industrialized and economically booming Guangdong Province, and has been described as one of the more heavily polluted waterways in the world.
Mainland authorities denied knowledge of any poultry outbreaks at the time, so the assumption - never proven - was that farmers with infected flocks were doing some midnight dumping of dead or dying poultry in order to avoid reporting outbreaks to local authorities and risking a greater cull.
Today Hong Kong authorities announce that 1 of 4 decomposing chicken carcasses found on the beaches of Lung Kwu Tan Beach on February 14th has tested positive for H5N6.
The three negative bird tests doesn't necessarily clear them, since getting a positive test from a highly decomposed bird can be difficult.
Over the past year H5N6 has increasingly replaced the venerable H5N1 virus in reports of poultry outbreaks, migratory birds, and human infections in China (see H5N6: The Other HPAI H5 Threat). While not yet having as great of impact on human health as H7N9, H5N6 considered a virus to watch.
This from HK's CHP:
Chicken carcass found at Lung Kwu Tan tests positive for H5N6 virus
A spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said today (February 19) that a chicken carcass found at Lung Kwu Tan, Tuen Mun, was confirmed to be H5N6 positive after laboratory testing.
Four highly decomposed chicken carcasses were collected at a beach near Tin Hau Temple, Lung Kwu Tan, Tuen Mun, on February 14. Of them, one tested positive for H5N6 while the other three were negative.
The spokesman said there were no poultry farms within 3 kilometres of where the dead chicken was found. AFCD staff will inspect the villages near Lung Kwu Tan and monitor if there is any backyard poultry.
A ban on backyard poultry has been in force since 2006. Unauthorised keeping of five kinds of poultry - chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons or quails - is an offence with a maximum fine of $50,000. Repeat offenders are subject to a maximum fine of $100,000.
The AFCD will conduct inspections of poultry farms and the wholesale market to ensure that proper precautions against avian influenza have been implemented. Samples will be taken from poultry farms for laboratory tests. The department will also continue its wild bird monitoring and surveillance.
The spokesman said that the department 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.
"People should avoid personal 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 the Call Centre on 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.
Health advice is available from the "H5N1 Health Advice" on the AFCD website at www.afcd.gov.hk .
Ends/Friday, February 19, 2016
Issued at HKT 18:55