Via The Standard: Bird flu expert urges tighter imports grip.
The authorities have been criticized for allowing common and cheap pet birds to be imported into Hong Kong, as they are likely to fall sick from deadly bird flu and cause an outbreak.
On Thursday, health officials and police shut down Yuen Po Street Bird Garden - popularly known as Bird Street - in Prince Edward for 21 days and culled 1,000 birds at one of the shops after a sample of bird droppings inside the cage of an oriental magpie robin tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu.
Bird expert Mike Kilburn, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, said the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department should strictly enforce the requirements for importing caged birds into Hong Kong to further reduce the risk of bird flu.
"Obtaining a permit is a costly process that will reduce the importation of low-cost species which receive little care and, consequently, are the most stressed and prone to disease," Kilburn, an expert on avian flu, told The Standard.
The oriental magpie robin is a resident bird commonly found in the city, according to the department.
The bird involved was imported from a bird-flu-free Asian country. The department believes it was likely infected in Hong Kong or the feces may have come from a wild bird. Kilburn said caged birds are a risk and may cause human infection.
A spokeswoman for the department rejected the suggestion that procedures for importing birds are lax.
She said the first round of tests on bird samples from 18 shops in Bird Street were found negative for H5. If this continues, Bird Street my reopen on July 26.