Bird flu closes market

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 June, 2007, 12:00am


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A deadly strain of bird flu has been found for the first time in Mong Kok's Bird Garden, forcing its temporary closure.

The H5N1 virus was found in a faecal swab taken from a breed of migratory bird which a customer left in one of the market's 26 pet-bird shops two weeks ago. It is not known if the bird was intended for sale.

Officials last night said they were looking for the customer who left the Daurian starling.

The crowded market in Yuen Po Street has been closed for thorough cleaning amid fears the virus could spread.

The shop, called Indonesia, where the bird was left was served with a closure notice by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

The starling and 300 other birds from the shop have been taken to the department's animal-management centre in Sheung Shui. Department assistant director Thomas Sit Hon-chung said they all seemed healthy so far. Birds can carry the virus without falling ill.

Dr Sit added that the department had taken 18 samples from other birds in the shop, none of which had come back positive for H5N1.

Faecal swab samples were taken from the starling and several other birds on June 4 as part of the department's routine bird-flu surveillance programme.

The department announced the test results yesterday.