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Source: Reuters

Seven birds across Hong Kong test positive for H5N1

Published: 08 Feb 2009 18:42:54 PST

HONG KONG, Feb 7 - Seven dead birds found in scattered locations across Hong Kong have tested positive for the H5N1 birdflu virus after, health authorities said on Saturday.

The positive test results were found for seven bird carcasses found over the past week or so, including chickens, a duck, and several wild species including a grey heron and peregrine falcon.

Health experts fear the H5N1 influenza, currently infecting many birds in Asia, Europe and Africa, might make the jump to people, and trigger a possible pandemic threatening millions.

The H5N1 infected birds were found mostly in western Hong Kong, including Lantau island where the city's international airport is located, as well as urban areas in Kowloon and the New Territories.

The heron was found in the Mai Po Nature Reserve near the border with China, which has now been closed for three weeks as a temporary precaution with large migrating flocks of wild birds descending on the protected wetlands for the winter.

In China, five people died of bird flu in January, in regions far removed from each other and in which there were no reported cases of bird flu in birds.

Human cases and the appearance of dead wild birds in Hong Kong have caused some experts and media reports to question whether the virus is widespread but undetected in China.

H5N1 currently infects people only rarely but it has killed over half the nearly 400 people infected since 2003, according to the World Health Organization.

Hong Kong health authorities stepped up inspections on Saturday to 82 villages but said "no unauthorised keeping of poultry has been observed."

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