A dead bird found in Causeway Bay on New Year's Eve carried the lethal H5N1 bird flu virus, the government said last night. The case is the first confirmed in Hong Kong since March. Officials warned the public to avoid contact with wild birds and live poultry and to observe good hygiene. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department reported last night that the bird - one of six scaly-breasted munias found dead in Leighton Road near Leighton Plaza last Sunday - had tested positive for H5N1 bird flu. Tests on the other five munias are continuing. A spokesman for the department said people 'should avoid personal contact with wild birds and live poultry and clean their hands thoroughly after coming into contact with them'. The department said its staff had contacted community organisations, including religious groups, to warn them not to release birds for luck, since the birds would have little chance of surviving in the wild. 'We reminded the groups [of existing advice], sought their co-operation, and asked them to spread the word to their members,' the spokesman said. The scaly-breasted munia is a Hong Kong native found all over the city. But many are imported for release by those seeking blessings. About 38,000 were imported from the mainland last year. The spokesman noted all pet-bird traders must be licensed and inspected regularly. 'We have stepped up inspection of the Bird Garden [in Mong Kok] from three times a week to five times,' he said. 'Samples are collected regularly for testing of avian influenza viruses. 'Of the 2,400 samples tested last year, none was positive for avian influenza.' The last confirmed bird flu case in the city was 10 months ago. About 11,000 birds were tested for the H5 family of bird flu viruses last year. In the first four days of the new year, 80 were tested. Aviaries in Hong Kong Park, the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens and Kowloon Park were closed temporarily after the dead munia tested positive for an H5 virus on Thursday.