Barn swallow suspected to have H5 virus

     Preliminary testing on a barn swallow 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 (March 30), adding that further confirmatory tests were being conducted.

     The bird carcass was collected on March 26 at the Mai Po Section of Castle Peak Road, Yuen Long. Barn swallows usually visit Hong Kong in spring and summer.

     "As a precautionary measure, the Mai Po Nature Reserve will be temporarily closed to visitors for 21 days starting tomorrow (March 31). We will monitor the situation closely and review the closure period as necessary," the spokesman said.

     The 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.

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

     The spokesman said there were five chicken farms within three kilometres of where the bird was found.@AFCD staff inspected the farms and found no abnormal mortality or symptoms of avian influenza among the chicken flocks. These farms will be put under enhanced surveillance.

     "In view of this case, the AFCD has phoned poultry farmers reminding them to strengthen precautionary and biosecurity measures against avian influenza. Pet bird shop owners, licence holders of pet poultry and racing pigeons have also been reminded to take proper precautions," the spokesman said.

     The spokesman said the department would step up the inspection of poultry farms, the wholesale market and the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden to ensure that proper precautions against avian influenza had been implemented. The department will 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 enhance health education and distribute health advice leaflets.

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

     All relevant government departments will continue to remain highly vigilant and strictly enforce preventive measures against avian influenza.

     "The public can call 1823 Call Centre for follow up if they come across suspicious sick or dead birds, including carcasses of wild birds and poultry," the spokesman said.

     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.

     Advice on biosecurity measures for people working in poultry farms, wholesale and retail markets and health advice for the general public are available at the "H5N1 Health Advice" on the AFCD website at ( The website also includes the latest information on the H5N1 infected birds found in Hong Kong this year.

Ends/Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Issued at HKT 19:27