Birds inc magpie robin in Hong Kong w H5N1

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    Late to post this [re magpie robin, the first bird to test positive for H5N1 in HK during early 2006], after some hassles with website over past few days, but, from HK government, 19 January 2006:

    An Oriental Magpie Robin found dead in Kam Shan Tsuen, Tai Po was confirmed to be H5N1 positive following a series of laboratory tests, a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said today (January 19).

    The spokesman stressed that the department would maintain frequent inspections on poultry farms to ensure that proper precautions against avian influenza had been implemented.

    The department had inspected the eight chicken farms within five kilometres of where the Oriental Magpie Robin was found.

    “We will continue to monitor the poultry farms closely. There is no abnormal mortality and the chickens show no symptoms of avian influenza,” he said.

    The bird was collected by AFCD staff on January 10 upon a public referral.

    People are reminded to observe good personal hygiene. They should avoid personal contact with wild birds and live poultry and clean their hands thoroughly after coming into contact with them.

    Magpie robin is a common resident here, found even in city parks, also in and around villages; occur outside my apartment.
    Not a species that hob-nobs with wildfowl – tho will feed on open areas where ducks graze. (Hard to see wild ducks in HK away from Deep Bay wetland in northwest.)
    Will feed in and around farms.

    Also, common in captivity, with birds imported (eg from Singapore – better at fighting [!]).

    Odd that no evidence of HK otherwise in HK. [tho see below]
    So, vaccinated poultry??? (as reportedly can be infected without clinical signs)

    HK authorities now seeing if they can find more H5N1, inc in poultry farms near where the robin was found.

    Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/02/04 09:31


    A second dead magpie robin has tested positive, in village near border with Shenzhen, mainland China.
    Given their behaviour, and fact these villages some km apart, unlikely they were in contact in wild; odd that no other species yet found in Hong Kong with H5N1 this winter.

    So, my guess still that they were captive birds; maybe a bird dealer or two has problems (and – yes, another guess – has tossed birds out; not as tho a dealer wants hassle from authorities).
    [Emailed Agric, Fisheries and Cons Dept here re this – have they examined the birds to see if signs of captive origin; no reply as yet.]

    Results from 1st bird show the H5N1 related to prevalent strains in mainland China poultry.


    Just seen on Reuters (! – shows that haven’t watched or listened to local news today):

    HONG KONG (Reuters) – The Hong Kong government said on Wednesday that two dead birds — a wild crested myna and a domestic chicken smuggled in from mainland China — had tested positive for the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus. … The chicken and myna double the number of dead birds Hong Kong government tests in the past two weeks have shown to have H5N1, a strain of bird flu that has killed 85 people worldwide since late 2003. As a precaution, the government will cull all poultry within five kilometres (3.1 miles) of the smallholding where the chicken died, and also close the city’s walk-in aviaries and a large nature reserve, said Thomas Sit, Acting Assistant Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation. It was unclear where the chicken caught the deadly disease, said Thomas Tsang, Consultant of the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health. "We do not know whether the chicken was infected in the mainland or whether it was infected in Hong Kong," he told a news conference. "We can’t really draw any conclusions yet." The bird was smuggled into Hong Kong on January 26 without symptoms and became ill on January 31. The typical incubation period for the disease in birds is two to 10 days, he said. The chicken was brought illegally into Hong Kong ahead of the Lunar New Year period. Despite bird flu worries, the government increased the number of chickens shipped into Hong Kong from mainland China around the January 29 Lunar New Year. It fell ill and died about a half a kilometre (0.3 miles) from the border with China in an area where the government said on Sunday that an Oriental Magpie Robin also died of H5N1. The dead crested myna was found in an urban playground, Tsang said.

    Hong Kong says found more H5N1 flu in dead birds[/url] Just found govt press release; the mynah was found in Wong Tai Sin, north Kowloon (not quite in New Territories; over 10km south of where 1st infected magpie robin found, which in turn another 10km south of place on border where 2nd magpie robin and now the smuggled chicken found). Crested mynah not much of a cage bird here; common resident. So, less likely to me that seeing infections in captive [wild] birds. Feeding at places with chickens? – can but guess. Govt to close aviaries and Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve as precaution. Later thought re Wong Tai Sin: there’s big temple there; major place during Chinese New Year celebrations. Just wondering if the mynah found at Wong Tai Sin might have been part of batch released at the temple – for good fortune – over Chinese New Year; googled, and found (example of this) re last governor Chris Patten visiting the temple some years ago: " He helped release 108 birds from nine cages as part of a ”setting free ceremony” to seek blessing for the well-being of the Hong Kong people."

    Chicken smuggling by no means uncommon, inc at Shataukok:

    At 5.10 am this morning (May 30), a public light bus running between Sha Tau Kok and Sheung Shui was also intercepted at the above Check Post. Customs officers arrested a 72-year-old female passenger; and seized a total of 10 kilograms of chicken and five kilograms of duck, valued at about $340, onboard.

    (May 30, 2005)

    A total of 429 kg of fresh chicken, 37 kg of fresh duck and 18 kg of fresh goose have been seized. Other than fresh meat, two live chickens were seized and a person was arrested at the Sha Tau Kok Control Point yesterday

    (February 7, 2005).

    Enforcement actions on examining imported cargoes and baggage were stepped up. As a result, 211 kg of fresh chicken, 7kg of fresh duck and 3.5kg of fresh goose were seized.


    Following the seizure of pork and chicken made on January 31, Customs officers of the Shek Chung Au Check Post of the Sha Tau Kok Control Point today (February 3) seized four bags of pork and chicken weighing 68 kg onboard a public light bus running between Sha Tau Kok Village and Sheung Shui.


    I sent email with idea re the mynah being among batch of birds released at temple, inc Chris Patten releasing birds in 1997, to HK Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department; obviously too brief in email, as just received:  

    Thanks for your email dated 1.2.2006   Since the release was done in 1997, we cannot ensure whether the mynah therein is one of the birds in the batch released. Thank you for bringing the matter to our attention.

    to which I’ve replied:   I hadn’t meant the mynah was released in 1997! That was just to show that bird releases can take place at the temple.   I meant, instead, the mynah was maybe released there during this Chinese New Year. (At Wong Tai Sin temple or nearby).   If so, the mynah was not a wild bird, but was captive.   The magpie robins maybe also captive (for fighting?) – have they been examined for signs of this?   Captivity/trade a far more likely means of these birds becoming infected with H5N1 than any contact with wild ducks (where to find these in HK outside Deep Bay? – not easy)   For instance, in Shenzhen I’ve been to market where they had both poultry/farm animals, and wild animals inc birds. This species is commonly sold in markets in s China:

    Wild Animal Trade Monitoring Selected Markets Guangzhou Shenzhen (pdf file)

    Preliminary testing of a Common Magpie found in Sham Tseng has indicated a suspected case of H5 avian influenza, a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said today (February 4), adding that further confirmatory tests are being conducted.

    The bird was collected by AFCD staff in Yuen Tun Village, Tsing Lung Tau following a public referral on February 2. Appearing sick at the time, it was transferred to the department’s Animal Management Centre/North and died the following day.

    The spokesman said there is only one commercial chicken farm within five kilometres of where the bird was found. No abnormal mortality or symptoms of avian influenza was detected among the chicken flocks upon inspection.

    This is on west coast of the New Territories (near Tsuen Wan), so not real close to the other recent H5N1 reports in Hong Kong.
    Magpies have tested positive for H5N1 before (eg ne China), perhaps contracting after scavenging carcasses of infected birds.
    Not far from Wong Tai Sin (crested mynah), but also not a species I’d expect among birds released in ceremonies.

    6 Feb update: results positive for H5N1.

    Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/02/06 15:15


    A dead chicken found abandoned (with 2 live chickens) in Tuen Mun, nw Hong Kong just tested positive for H5.
    A little egret found dead nearby has indicated positive for H5.


    A dead Japanese White-eye found on steps of a school in Mong Kok, Kowloon, tested positive for H5.
    Another species that seems odd for infection with H5.
    Very common cagebird; Mong Kok is close to major bird markets. Also common in wild – inc in trees in urban areas.

    The egret has tested positive for H5N1.


    Seems like he birds with H5N1 are now just dropping out of the sky in Hong Kong.

    I hadn’t thought that so many species were involved..,

    Seems like he birds with H5N1 are now just dropping out of the sky in Hong Kong.

    Ain’t that the truth!
    I now don’t venture outside without wearing a crash helmet, and a big rubber suit I had my wife make for me.


    red-whiskered bulbul found dead at same Mong Kok school; no news yet re whether H5 positive.
    Another common HK resident.

    Email just in from Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department:

    According to the information from our Veterinary Officers, the concerned Magpie Robin is probably a wild bird as the features of captive/cage birds mentioned in your e-mail below could not be found. In addition, they examined the stomach of the bird and found that it was empty.

    [my email:
    Have they been examined for signs they may have been captive birds:
    feather wear, damage to bills, feet etc; even examination of stomach
    – and are there other indicators of whether they were likely local wild
    birds, or of captive origin? (any differences between our birds, and
    those that are imported) ]

    Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/02/10 07:45


    A dead common (black-billed) magpie found in Mong Kok, Kowloon on 17 February is evidently H5 positive, being tested for H5N1.

    Another urban case in a wild bird (or former cage bird – though magpies are not popular cage birds that I know of).

    Close to the main bird markets in Hong Kong.

    AFCD staff inspected stalls in the Bird Garden in Mong Kok today and found nothing abnormal among the pet birds there for sale.

    “We have maintained close surveillance of pet bird stalls in the Garden with daily inspections. Collection of swab samples from the stalls will be further increased,” the spokesman said.

    More than 200 swab samples are collected from local pet bird stalls each month to test for avian influenza viruses, including those of the Bird Garden. Test results were all negative.


    More bodies adding to the puzzle, with H5(N1) now scattered in resident species – mainly songbirds – chiefly in Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island.

    govt news release 21 Feb:

    Preliminary testing of three dead birds collected on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon has indicated suspected cases of H5 avian influenza, a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said today (February 21), adding that further confirmatory tests are being conducted.

    One of them was a dead Large-billed Crow removed by AFCD staff from Magnolia Road, Yau Yat Chuen [Kowloon] on February 18 upon a public referral.

    The two other cases involved a Munia found dead on Repulse Bay Road and a White-backed Munia found dead on Queen’s Road East [both locations Hong Kong Island] on February 19. The carcasses were also collected by AFCD staff upon public referrals.

    govt news release yesterday:

    Preliminary testing of a house crow found dead in Cheung Sha Wan [Kowloon] has indicated a suspected case of H5 avian influenza, the Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department says. More tests are being conducted.

    The carcass was collected from Lai On Estate on February 20

    HONG KONG, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Virus samples taken from wild birds found dead in Hong Kong recently were closely linked to a strain of the H5N1 virus that surfaced in Japan and South Korea in 2004, but not the one spreading in Europe, a top scientist said.

    Though – wouldn’t you know it – article includes suggestion this virus is entrenched in wild birds (in Asia), no real evidence is given. Even with Japan case that’s mentioned, smuggling/trade remains a possibility for introduction of virus. Just emailed Dr Malik Peiris, who’s quoted in article: If this H5N1 virus indeed entrenched in wild birds (Reuters, quoting you), why such an odd assortment of species in Hong Kong – all resident (well, little egret likely is), and mainly songbirds; why such tendency to be in Kowloon and on HK Island? How to infect, say, a white-eye or a magpie robin? Why the flurry of cases after around Chinese New Year, when two chickens positive? And, why all the tests of healthy wild birds coming up negative for this strain? Indeed, H5N1 in general appears very rare in healthy wild birds. Very curious, I think. (As Russia, reportedly, prepares to deter wild birds from nesting this spring – at least in Nobosibirisk, as wild birds believed by some to be major H5N1 vectors. Are conservation implications.) – further thoughts (not in the email): Really seems odd notions by Malik P. Based on v scant info, suggests this H5N1 strain is endemic in wild birds, linking Japan/HK. Yet, he’s among team who suggested wild birds have different strain at Poyang, thence to Qinghai, then on to Europe. Even though Poyang surely far more linked to Hong Kong by migration routes than ii is to Qinghai (no direct links known from Poyang to Qinghai?) Too bad that virologists saying stuff re wild birds without taking trouble to learn about them. (Ornithologists now having to try n learn some things about viruses, after all.)

    Preliminary testing of a House Crow found dead in Shek Kip Mei has indicated a suspected case of H5 avian influenza, a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said today (February 24), adding that further confirmatory tests are being conducted.

    The carcass was collected by AFCD staff on Tai Hang Tung Estate following a public referral on February 23.

    As for three earlier suspected cases involving a dead Large-billed Crow found in Yau Yat Tsuen, a dead Munia found on Repulse Bay Road, and a dead White-backed Munia found in Wan Chai, the spokesman said all of the birds were confirmed to have H5N1 virus after a series of laboratory tests.

    – so, H5N1 being spread in mainly urban Hong Kong by wild birds … dead ones, that is! (Any apparently healthy wild birds tested positive yet?)

    Meanwhile, South China Morning Post reports Agriculture, Fisheries and Cibservatuib Department saying it’s ok for people to kill house crows and pigeons.
    Crazy times!


    now, a dead common (black-billed) magpie, Hong Kong Island:

    The carcass was collected by AFCD staff on Island Road following a public referral on February 24.
    Another corvid (crow/magpie) – ie another scavenger, near the city.

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