Dead egret tests positive for bird flu in Hong Kong

Hong Kong authorities on Thursday investigated two new suspected cases of bird flu, a dead chicken and a wild bird found near a local school, and the health secretary said he won't be surprised if more birds fall ill.

The territory, which last saw a major bird flu outbreak in 1997, has seen a series of birds test positive for the disease in recent weeks.

The government announced late Wednesday that a dead egret found earlier this week in an urban Hong Kong district has tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

Spokesman Albert Hui of the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department said final test results on the dead chicken and on a Japanese White-eye, a small wild bird found near the school, weren't available yet.

On Thursday, officials collected another dead bird, a Red-whiskered Bulbul, in the same area. It will be tested for avian flu but wasn't yet considered a suspect case, Hui said.

"It won't be surprising if more birds are infected," Health Secretary York Chow said Thursday.

Chow said the government is searching for sites near chicken farms to set up slaughterhouses for centralized killing of chickens, instead of in local shops as is customary in Hong Kong.

The government has also tried to control the bird flu outbreak by banning people from raising poultry at home. The ban, under which offenders can be fined up to 100,000 Hong Kong dollars (US$12,880; Ђ 10,760), starts Feb. 13, reports the AP.

I.L.