The flu strain which has been killing chickens since last month has been identified as H5N1, a leading official announced yesterday. A strain of H5N1 was responsible for the deaths of six people in 1997. However, Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Thomas Chan Chun-yuen said the new strain - linked to an ongoing outbreak at a Pat Heung farm - posed no risk to humans. 'We have already established that the strain is H5N1,' he said, adding that the virus was not spreading to other farms. Mr Chan parried media questions about the virulence of the outbreak. 'It may not necessarily be more virulent but we are still looking into its [genetic sequence]. There is absolutely no sign that the strain we are having is the strain we had in 1997,' he said. There have been four outbreaks of H5N1 since 1997, when a strain jumped the species barrier. Birds began dying in the latest outbreak on December 1 when wild ducks and geese, the natural hosts of avian flu, were found dead at Penfold Park in the Sha Tin racecourse. Authorities subsequently closed the park and killed all the birds living there. It will reopen next Thursday. Waterfowl in Kowloon Park and chickens at five wet markets and two farms have since been infected in what the government has described as 'sporadic' incidents of bird flu. Mr Chan was also adamant that the owner of the Pat Heung farm - who has been refusing to allow the slaughter of some of his stock to control the outbreak - would not be compensated. 'You may remember that last year when avian flu broke out there were a lot of voices asking why the community should foot the bill to cover the normal business risk of chicken farmers,' he said. He added that restricting vaccination of chickens to farms around the infected site was the right course of action. 'If there is no outbreak in a particular area, why am I going to vaccinate?' he said. 'Vaccination is not a panacea. It is just a complementary tool. We are not thinking of extending the vaccination programme to cover the whole of the chicken population in Hong Kong.' The New Territories Chicken Breeders' Association put the blame for the new H5N1 outbreak squarely on the government. Spokesman Kwan Wing-kin said: 'If the government had listened to our proposals, the situation would have been under control two to three years ago.' The industry said mass vaccinations and biosecurity measures at chicken farms were the best ways to tackle the problem.