Sat, Jan 21, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Bird tests positive for flu in Hong Kong

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , HONG KONG

Hong Kong authorities announced late on Thursday that testing had confirmed the presence of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in a dead bird found about 11km from the border with China.

The 20cm-long bird is an oriental magpie robin, a bird with striking plumage of black and white feathers that is commonly found in urban and rural areas from China to India to Singapore. The species is not migratory and is often kept as a pet in Hong Kong, raising questions about how the dead bird became infected.

Thomas Sit, Hong Kong's acting assistant director of agriculture, fisheries and conservation, said that the bird had most likely come in contact with infected migratory waterfowl in a nearby marsh.

Agriculture officials have checked all eight poultry farms within a 5km radius of the dead bird and have found no signs of illness, and plan to check the rest of the farms in the territory as well, he said.

"This is no cause for alarm," he said.

A dead heron infected with the same disease was found here on Jan. 10 last year. But the government had tested 9,000 dead wild birds without finding an infected one between the heron and the oriental magpie robin, Sit said.

He added that there were no plans to restrict sales of chickens during Lunar New Year celebrations that begin at the end of next week. Chicken is commonly eaten in Hong Kong then.

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