H5N1 avian influenza virus detected in environmental sample at Mai Po Nature Reserve


8th December 2023 – (Hong Kong) The University of Hong Kong (HKU) has notified the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) today that an environmental sample taken from the renowned Mai Po Nature Reserve (MPNR) has tested positive for the H5N1 subtype of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus.

Regular avian influenza surveillance at the MPNR is carried out by a research team from HKU’s School of Public Health, who collect samples for analysis. Among the samples collected on 6th December, a sample of faecal droppings has been confirmed to contain the H5N1 virus.

In response to this development, the managing organisation of the MPNR, the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong, has implemented enhanced cleansing and disinfection measures for tourist facilities within the reserve, including bird hides and the floating boardwalk. A disinfectant carpet has also been placed at the entrance of the MPNR to facilitate visitors in disinfecting the soles of their shoes. The AFCD is closely monitoring the situation of the birds within the reserve and has displayed notices reminding visitors to uphold personal hygiene practices.

It is important to note that there are no chicken farms within a three-kilometre radius of the MPNR. Nevertheless, the AFCD has intensified avian influenza surveillance since the onset of winter and is meticulously monitoring the situation at local poultry farms and the wholesale market. Regular reminders are being issued to poultry farmers, pet bird shop owners, and license holders of pet poultry and racing pigeons to ensure the implementation of appropriate precautions against avian influenza.

The AFCD spokesman emphasized the need for the public to avoid contact with wild birds, live poultry, and their droppings. Individuals should thoroughly clean their hands after any such contact. In the event of encountering birds suspected to be sick or dead, including wild bird or poultry carcasses, members of the public are encouraged to report such incidents to the AFCD’s helpline at 1823 for necessary follow-up actions.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) will remain vigilant in overseeing live poultry stalls and will continue reminding stall operators to uphold high standards of hygiene.

The Department of Health will continue its efforts in health education, reminding the public to maintain strict personal and environmental hygiene practices to mitigate the risks associated with avian influenza.

Collaboratively, the AFCD, FEHD, Customs and Excise Department, and the Police will work diligently to discourage the illegal importation of poultry and birds into Hong Kong. Such measures aim to minimize the risk of avian influenza outbreaks caused by the introduction of uninspected and unquarantined poultry and birds from abroad.