Dead Heron in Hong Kong Suspected to Have Caught Avian Flu
HONG KONG — A dead gray heron found in Hong Kong near the mainland China border is suspected to have been a casualty of bird flu, the government said on Tuesday.
The virus has killed 12 people in Thailand and 20 in Vietnam this year, and health experts fear the disease could mutate into a form that could be transmitted between humans.
"The result of preliminary testing of a dead gray heron found in Lok Ma Chau area indicated a suspected case of H5 avian influenza," the Hong Kong government said, adding that tests were under way. The deadly H5N1 virus that has killed humans belongs to the H5 virus family.
China has reported bird flu outbreaks among poultry this year, and experts say the disease may be carried by migrating birds.
Authorities have traced all seven people who had contact with the dead bird and found them in good health but would monitor their condition for the next few days. No cases had been found in poultry within a 2 km (one mile) radius.
Millions of chickens have been slaughtered across Southeast Asia as governments battle to contain a virus that World Health Organization officials fear could, if unchecked, eventually mutate and trigger a human flu pandemic.
The avian influenza virus was first seen in humans in 1997 in Hong Kong, where it infected 18 people and killed one-third.