Bird flu appears to be taking root in Hong Kong now that it has surfaced in both local wild birds and chicken, the territory's health secretary said on Friday.
"It's not just Hong Kong. This virus will exist in neighboring areas, southern China as well as Hong Kong," York Chow (
"Since different kinds of wild birds and chickens have this virus, we can be quite sure that this virus is endemic in our birds," he said.
Later, health bureau spokeswoman Sally Kong said Chow meant that bird flu is endemic in Asia, not Hong Kong specifically.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says an area is considered endemic after tests determine a cycle of disease recurrence within a given area, and that the virus hasn't simply been imported from another place.
All of the bird flu endemic countries -- Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand -- have large domestic poultry stocks and vast rice fields where backyard farms are common among villagers.
Chow's comments came after the government announced on Wednesday that both a local chicken brought in from China and a dead crested myna tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu virus. In the past year, Hong Kong officials also found avian flu in two other species.
Previously, bird flu killed six people in Hong Kong in 1997, prompting the government to slaughter the entire poultry population of about 1.5 million birds.
But since then, there have been no major outbreaks. Hong Kong has been largely spared from the recent outbreaks that have killed or forced the slaughter of millions of birds across Asia since late 2003.
Chow urged the public not to panic, saying bird flu doesn't pose a serious threat to Hong Kong's urban residents -- except those who work in the poultry industry or raise chickens at home. The infected chicken whose test results were announced earlier this week was being kept in a local household.