From: Reuters
Published January 31, 2008 03:18 AM

Suspected bird flu shuts Hong Kong park's aviaries

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong theme park is to shut its aviaries for three weeks following the discovery of a wild heron suspected of dying from bird flu.

The bird was found on Monday in a remote area of Ocean Park, on the south coast of Hong Kong Island.

"As a precautionary measure, the walk-in aviaries in Ocean Park will be temporarily closed to visitors for 21 days starting tomorrow," said a spokesperson with Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

Ocean Park, a conservation-focused theme park with pandas, dolphins, birds and rollercoasters, attracted nearly 5 million visitors last year, proving more popular than the struggling Hong Kong Disneyland.

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Spokeswoman Christine Lau said the rest of the park would operate normally and the aviary closures were a precautionary measure, with the 900 birds in its collection not having shown any symptoms of bird flu.

Epidemiologists fear the H5N1 strain, which remains mainly an animal disease but has infected humans, could mutate to a form that spreads easily among people.

China detected an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of bird flu in poultry in Tibet earlier this week.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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