The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) was notified by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) that an environmental sample taken from Mai Po Nature Reserve tested positive for the H5N1 avian influenza (AI) virus, noted a spokesman for the department today (November 16).
A research team of the School of Public Health, HKU, collects samples from the Reserve regularly for AI surveillance. Among the environmental samples collected on November 9, a sample of faecal droppings has been confirmed to be positive for the H5N1 AI virus.
The spokesman said the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong, the organisation managing the Reserve, has stepped up cleaning and disinfection of visitor facilities including bird hides and a floating boardwalk. A disinfectant carpet has been placed at the entrance of the Reserve for visitors to disinfect the soles of their shoes. In addition, the AFCD is closely monitoring the situation of the birds there and has put up notices to remind visitors to pay attention to personal hygiene.
There are no poultry farms within three kilometres of the Reserve. The AFCD has recently strengthened AI surveillance and closely monitored the situation of the local poultry farms and wholesale market. Poultry farmers, pet bird shop owners and licence holders of pet poultry and racing pigeons are reminded from time to time to ensure that proper precautions against AI have been implemented.
"People should avoid contact with wild birds and live poultry and their droppings. They should clean their hands thoroughly after coming into contact with them. The public can call 1823 for follow-up if they come across birds suspected to be sick or dead, including the carcasses of wild birds and poultry," the spokesman said.
The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) will continue to be vigilant over live poultry stalls. It will also remind stall operators to maintain good hygiene.
The Department of Health will keep up with its health education to remind the public to maintain strict personal and environmental hygiene to prevent AI.
The AFCD, the FEHD, the Customs and Excise Department and the Police will strive to deter the illegal importation of poultry and birds into Hong Kong to minimise the risk of AI outbreaks caused by imported poultry and birds that have not gone through inspection and quarantine.
All relevant government departments will continue to be highly vigilant and strictly enforce preventive measures against AI. Health advice about preventing AI is available on the "Avian Influenza Health Advice" page at www.afcd.gov.hk.