Hong Kong, like Japan and South Korea, lies under the East Asian-Australian Migratory Flyway, and local marshes serve as both stop overs, and over-wintering grounds for many avian species.
Among them, is the Mai Po Nature Preserve, where more than 380 avian species may be found.
Located in the New Territories, on the border with Mainland China, Mai Po marsh is only about 16 miles north of the center of Hong Kong. Today, the AFCD has announced the detection of H5N6 in bird droppings collected late last month in the Mai Po marsh.
Unlike for Japan and South Korea, this in not Hong Kong's first encounter with the H5N6 virus.
- Last February several badly decomposed chicken carcasses were found on local beaches (presumably dumped upstream the Pearl River in Guangdong Province) that tested positive for the virus (see Hong Kong: Another H5N6 Positive Chicken Carcass).
- Prior to that, in November of 2015 we saw a Hong Kong Robin Positive For H5N6, and six months before that a peregrine falcon infected with H5N6, followed a few weeks later by a second bird (see Hong Kong: Oriental Robin Tests Positive For H5N6).
Given the infiltration of H5N6 into poultry operations in both South Korea and Japan over the past couple of weeks, this discovery will nonetheless raise the level of concern for Hong Kong Poultry producers.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) was notified by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) that three samples of faecal droppings of birds taken from Mai Po Nature Reserve (MPNR) tested positive for H5N6 avian influenza (AI) virus, noted a spokesman for the department today (December 5).
Research team of HKU collects samples from the MPNR regularly for AI surveillance. Among the environmental samples collected on November 25, three samples of faecal droppings taken at a Gei Wai near the Tower Bird Hide have been confirmed to be positive for H5N6 today.
The spokesman said the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong, the managing organisation of the MPNR, has stepped up cleansing and disinfection of tourist facilities including bird hides and floating boardwalk. Disinfectant carpet has been placed at the entrance of the MPNR for visitors to disinfect the soles of their shoes. In addition, the AFCD is closely monitoring the situation of the birds in the MPNR and has put up notices to remind visitors to pay attention to personal hygiene.
There are no poultry farms within three kilometres of the MPNR. Since the beginning of winter, the AFCD has strengthened AI surveillance and closely monitors the situation of the local poultry farms and wholesale market. Poultry farmers, pet bird shop owners and licence holders of pet poultry and racing pigeons are reminded from time to time to ensure that proper precautions against avian influenza have been implemented.
"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 on the AFCD website at www.afcd.gov.hk.
Ends/Monday, December 5, 2016Issued at HKT 20:58