Fecal samples taken from migratory birds in Guandu (關渡) yesterday tested positive for the HN virus responsible for the bird flu which has swept across south-eastern Asia. This was the third time this year that the HN-virus strain has been found in Taiwan and with the infection "danger period" between January and March coming up, Council of Agriculture (COA) officials warned the public to take extra precautions to avoid catching the flu.
In a routine fecal sampling by the Wild Bird Federation, the H5N2 and H7N3 viruses -- low pathogenic strains of the HN family of viruses -- were found in marshlands in Guandu.
Head of the council's Animal Health division, Huang Guo-ching (黃國青), said, "Luckily, these strains are of low pathogenicity so should pose no threat to public health. It is also lucky that there are no poultry farms within a 3km radius of Guandu."
This is the second time that a strain of the HN family of viruses has been found in Guandu this year. The H7N3 variant of the virus, also of low pathnogenicity, was found there in April this year. Just last month, the H7N3 strain of the virus was found for the second time this year, in marshlands near Tainan.
Huang speculated that the second H7N3 virus found in Guandu originated from the same flock of birds responsible for the virus found earlier in Tainan and Guandu. This flock was probably from Siberia as it arrived in Taiwan earlier than other flocks of migratory birds.
Speculating that the next flock was due to arrive from China later this month, Huang said, "At that time all the different flocks of migratory birds will be mixed together, which will increase the risk of spreading the HN virus. That's why we are getting so nervous now and urging the public to take serious precautions."
The COA has already contacted the Center for Disease Control, the Department of Health and the Wild Bird Federation regarding the result of the tests.
The council urged poultry farmers to put up wire fencing to keep migratory birds from mixing with their own birds and so minimize the risk of bird flu spreading.