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Great Egret tested for H5 virus

    Preliminary testing of a Great Egret found in Yuen Long had indicated a suspected case of H5 avian influenza, a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said today (February 5), adding that further confirmatory tests were being conducted.

    The bird carcass was found and collected on February 2 at Tam Kon Chau, Yuen Long. The Great Egret is a common resident and winter visitor to Hong Kong.

    "As a precautionary measure, the Mai Po Nature Reserve will be temporarily closed to visitors for 21 days starting tomorrow (February 6). We will monitor the situation closely and review the closure period as necessary," the spokesman said.

    AFCD has maintained a stringent monitoring regime on wild birds in the Mai Po Nature Reserve and collected faecal samples for H5 testing since the winter of 2002.

    AFCD and the Mai Po Nature Reserve have always maintained close communication with each other to ensure precautionary measures against avian influenza are in place to safeguard public health.

    The spokesman said there were no chicken farms within three kilometres of where the bird was found.

    "In view of this case, the AFCD will phone poultry farmers reminding them to strengthen precautionary and biosecurity measures against avian influenza. Letters will be issued to the farmers, pet bird shop owners, licence holders of pet poultry and racing pigeons reminding them that proper precautions must be taken."

    The spokesman said that the department would conduct frequent inspections of poultry farms and the wholesale market to ensure that proper precautions against avian influenza had been implemented. The department would continue its wild bird monitoring and surveillance.

    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 and distribute health advice leaflets.

    AFCD, 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 outbreak brought by imported poultry and birds that had not gone through inspection and quarantine.

    The spokesman said the threat of avian influenza remained. The relevant departments will remain vigilant and continue to take preventive and control measures against avian influenza.

    Members of the public are reminded to observe good personal hygiene. They 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. Poultry and eggs should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.

Ends/Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Issued at HKT 19:51


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