Monday, December 25, 2017

Hong Kong: Oriental Robin Tests Positive For H5N6


On Friday, we learned via separate reports of two dead birds collected by authorities in Hong Kong that had tested positive for the H5 virus; an Oriental Magpie Robin and a Black-faced Spoonbill. 
The Robin is often a year-round resident in Hong Kong, but the Spoonbill is a migratory bird, recently arrived from the Korean peninsula.  The two birds were found roughly 20 miles apart.
Today Hong Kong's AFCD has announced that the Oriental Magpie has tested positive for H5N6 (pathogenicity not stated, but presumed to be HPAI). No word yet on results from the Spoonbill.
That said, it isn't clear which version of H5N6 has landed in Hong Kong. 
The strictly `Asian-origin' H5N6 virus, which has been circulating in China (and occasionally reported in Vietnam & Laos) since 2014 and has shown up in Hong Kong before (see 2015's Hong Kong Robin Positive For H5N6) is certainly a possibility.

But the H5N6 virus most recently reported in South Korea and Japan has been a new reassortment - not descendant from the Asian H5N6 virus - but from the European H5N8 virus that ravaged Europe last winter (see Tottori University: Shimane HPAI H5N6 A New Reassortment) and still continues to circulate in Africa, Russia, Italy, and the Middle East. 
Complicating that picture even further, at least two distinct strains of this recent reassortment have been reported in South Korea.
Making at least three possibilities - and given the virus's penchant to re-invent itself - perhaps more. All of this is of more than just academic interest, as the `Asian-origin' H5N6 virus has a record of causing sporadic human infections (and deaths), while the European offshoot has not yet been linked to human illness.

So, in addition to learning about the test results on the Spoonbill, we'll we waiting to see a more detailed genetic analysis of the H5N6 in question. 

Oriental magpie robin tests positive for H5N6 virus

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said today (December 25) that a dead Oriental magpie robin found in To Lok Road, Tseung Kwan O, was confirmed to be H5N6 positive after laboratory testing.

The dead Oriental magpie robin was found and collected in 8 To Lok Road, Tseung Kwan O, last Thursday (December 21), and was suspected to be H5 positive after initial laboratory testing last Friday (December 22). The Oriental magpie robin is a common resident of 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 where the dead bird was found.

In view of the case, the AFCD already phoned poultry farmers to remind them to strengthen precautionary and biosecurity measures against avian influenza. Letters will be 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 ensure that proper precautions against avian influenza have been implemented. The AFCD 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

Ends/Monday, December 25, 2017
Issued at HKT 19:31