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Hong Kong on Bird Flu Alert

Hong Kong was on bird flu alert Friday after a wild bird found in a busy shopping area was tested positive for the avian flu virus//.

Officials confirmed Thursday that preliminary testing of a dead bird found in Causeway Bay had indicated it was suspected to have died of H5 avian influenza.

Further confirmatory tests are being conducted, but officials have stepped up monitoring and precautionary measures and advised doctors to be on the lookout for human cases.

The carcass of the Scaly-breasted Munia was one of six dead birds found in the same area.

A spokesperson for the agriculture, fisheries and conservation department said they would conduct a fresh round of visits to local poultry farms and pet bird shops to ensure precautionary measures against bird flu were in place.

"In view of this suspected case, we have phoned poultry farmers reminding them to maintain precautions against avian influenza. Letters have also been issued to the farmers, pet bird shop owners, licence holders of pet poultry and racing pigeons reminding them that proper precautions must be taken," he said.

"We will visit villages again to ensure that no poultry is being kept illegally."

This is the first case to be discovered in wild birds in Hong Kong since March last year.

Between Jan 10 and March 22 2006, 15 wild birds, one backyard chicken and a chicken smuggled from China tested positive for the virus.

However, no human cases were detected of the deadly virus, which according to the WHO has killed 157 people, mainly in Asia, since 2003.

Hong Kong has stringent precautionary measures in place to guard against an outbreak of bird flu since 1997 when the virus crossed the species barrier in the former British colony and infected 18 people, of which six died.


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