Friday, February 09, 2018

Hong Kong Reports Another H5 Positive Wild Bird

UPDATED:  0800 hrs EST Feb 9th
Hong Kong's AFCD: Black-headed gull carcass tests positive for H5N6 virus. A full genetic analysis will take days or possibly weeks. 


For the third time this winter season Hong Kong authorities are reporting on the discovery of a dead bird that has tested positive for the H5 virus.  This time it is a black-headed gull, recovered near a public toilet in Tin Shui Wai - not far from where a Black-faced Spoonbill was recovered last December.

While no local poultry farms have been affected, Hong Kong has also reported avian H5 contaminated `chilled' poultry products at two Fresh Provision' shops in January (see Hong Kong FEHD Finds Another Shop Selling H5 Contaminated Poultry).
This contamination likely came from imported poultry from the Mainland.
More than a month after their discovery, on Wednesday the OIE published brief reports on  the Magpie and Spoonbill, indicating they were both HPAI H5N6 positive, albeit with genetically distinct viruses.

The Magpie was described as:

An intensive surveillance system is in place for all poultry farms, poultry markets, and pet bird shops in Hong Kong. The H5N6 infected wild bird was detected in our ongoing surveillance program on wild birds. No spread of disease was evident. There are no poultry farms located within three kilometres of where the bird was found. The Hong Kong Wetland Park and Mai Po Nature Reserve are not located within three kilometres of where the bird was found.The date of end of the outbreak is the same as the date the bird was found (21 December 2017). 
While the Spoonbill was described as:
An intensive surveillance system is in place for all poultry farms, poultry markets, and pet bird shops in Hong Kong. The virus was detected during disease investigation of the species. No spread of disease was evident. There are two poultry farms located within three kilometres of where the bird was found. No abnormalities or signs of avian influenza were found in the two poultry farms.
The date of end of the outbreak is the same as the date the bird was found (21 December 2017).
Gene sequencing results show that the virus is different in origin to the H5N6 viruses isolated in Hong Kong previously. The HA gene of the virus only shares a genetic identity of 92% with the other H5N6 virus isolated from the Oriental Magpie Robin on 22 Dec 2017. The HA and NA gene of the virus aligns with >99% of both of the H5N6 of A/mute swan/Shimane/3211A001/2017 and A/spoonbill/Taiwan/DB645/2017.

While the OIE report doesn't elaborate on the genetics of the magpie, we do learn the spoonbill carried one of the recently emerged H5N8 reassorted into H5N6 viruses, and not the more worrisome Asian H5N6 virus.
Hopefully we'll learn more about the origins of the Magpie's virus as time goes on.  While Asian H5N6 seems plausible, no analysis of the virus's N6 gene is provided.
All of which brings us to last night's announcement on this latest dead bird. 
A carcass of a black-headed gull found in Lau Fau Shan, Tin Shui Wai was suspected to be positive for the H5 avian influenza virus based on preliminary testing, a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said today (February 8). Further confirmatory tests are being conducted. 

The bird carcass was found and collected near a public toilet at Ngau Hom Tsuen, Lau Fau Shan today. The black-headed gull is a common winter visitor.  

The spokesman said the two chicken farms are within 3 kilometres of where the dead bird was found. The AFCD already informed the chicken farms concerned and found no abnormal mortality or symptoms of avian influenza among the chicken flocks so far. The AFCD will also phone poultry farmers to remind them to strengthen precautionary and biosecurity measures against avian influenza. Letters will be issued to pet bird shop owners and licence holders of pet poultry and racing pigeons reminding them that proper precautions must be taken. The AFCD will continue to monitor the situation closely.

The Hong Kong Wetland Park is also within 3 km of where the bird was found. Cleansing and disinfection has been stepped up at the Wetland Park. Notices have also been put up to remind visitors to pay attention to personal hygiene. The Wetland Park will keep a close watch on the situation of birds inside the Park.

The spokesman said the department will 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 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 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 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

Ends/Thursday, February 8, 2018

Issued at HKT 21:38

HPAI H5N6 first showed up in Hong Kong in the spring of 2015 (see Wild Bird Found Infected With H5N6) carried by a peregrine falcon, and has since been reported a number of times (see Hong Kong Robin Positive For H5N6).

Now with two different H5N6 viruses reported this winter in Hong Kong, we'll be particularly interested to see the genetic analysis on this third detection.

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