Bird Flu Q&A 有關禽流感的問答

Bird Flu Q & A 有關禽流感的問答

For the third year Bird Flu has been discovered in a supposedly wild bird in Hong Kong. For the third year the Government has taken a poorly-advised approach that is more about being seen to act  than taking the responsible and sensible measures to protect and inform the public.

Below is a Q&A about this incident and the Government's current procedures for handling Bird Flu.

Q1. How many cases are there of people catching bird flu from wild birds anywhere in Hong Kong, China or the rest of the world?

Q2. Why is this?
A. Wild birds which have a virus usually have much lower concentrations of the virus than factory farmed poultry or wild birds crammed together in cages. Both of these quickly pass on the virus and continually reinfect one another leading to very high concentrations of the virus and rapid development of new strains.

Q3. Which birds are most commonly traded for religious release  in Hong Kong?
A. A Hong Kong University study has shown that Spotted Munia and White-rumped Munia are the most commonly released birds.

Q4. Is Spotted Munia an urban species?
A. No. It is found agricultural and wetland areas.

Q5. So what was this bird doing on a road in Happy Valley
A. It is highly likely that it was not a truly wild bird, but had been released for religious purposes. The fact that it was found with four others together is typical of cases where newly released birds either die immediately because they are sick and/or starving, or are already dead and simply tipped out of the cages!

Q6. Is December-March the migration season in Hong Kong?
A. Yes, but there is migration in Hong Kong in EVERY MONTH of the year. The peak migraton seasons are September-November  and Late March - early May.

Q7. So why is there no bird flu in other seasons?
A. Because migratory birds are not the principal factor in the spread of bird flu to Hong Kong.

Q8. So what are the main factors in the spread of bird flu?
A. There are two: Most importantly,poultry bred in stressful conditions in high intensity factory farms which are traded in huge numbers throughout the world. Also chicken manure is traded as fertilizer and transported huge distances.  Everyone who has got sick or died has come into contact with poultry.

Secondly, wild birds crammed into cages under highly stressful and unhygienic conditions, often with no food and water often contract spread and die of various types of bird flu.

In both situations disease, infection and reinfection all flourish and a huge percentage of birds die. If the birds have not yet reached the markets the carcasses are usually left inside the cages with the live birds, rotting away and causing more infection.

Q9. So How do wild birds die of bird flu?
A. Different strains of bird flu occur naturally in wild birds and some die. However, migratory birds are not good at spreading deadly H5N1 because when they contract this disease they die quickly. In other words dead ducks don't fly!

Wild birds also come into contact with bird flu from feeding on disposed carcasses from poultry farms or from feeding in places where the virus-rich manure is discharged from the farm.

Q10. So how come birds are mostly found with bird flu in winter in Hong Kong?
A.Birds are more susceptible to flu in winter because of the cold - just like people.

Q11. Do bird watchers touch wild birds?
A. NO! Bird watchers usually watch birds FROM A DISTANCE with Binoculars.

Q12. So if there is no extra risk from birdwatching,why have guided bird watching activities been stopped in Hong Kong Park and Kowloon Park, when all other users of the parks continue to use the park as normal
A. There is no logical reason whatsoever!

Q13. What is the result of stopping these activities?
A. The main impact is on the members of the Crested Bulbul Club who lead the tours.  This club is run by elderly bird watchers and the guiding in the park offers them the opportunity to share their love of birds with members of the public and enjoy a healthy outdoor activity. This measure by the Government deprives the elderly of the chance to serve the community. They can still go birdwatching - they just can't lead tours! We are all still free to go birdwatching in the parks - this shows the foolishness of the Government's flu prevention measures.

Q14. So what should the Government do?
A. Restore the organised bird watching activities in the parks. Advise people not to touch dead birds and maintain basic hygiene. If you don't touch birds there should be no risk of infection. They should also base their disease prevention of sound science and consultation with appropriate experts.

Also it seems highly likely that the bird found with H5 has been deliberately caught and sold for release. The bird markets selling these birds should be very closely monitored, or at the least a radical review of the hygiene condidtions of the birds needs to be made.

Q15. What happens if a bird is found near Mai Po or the Wetland Park?
A. If a bird is found with a H5 virus within 3km of either place, they will be closed for 21 days.

Q16. So how come Kowloon Park and Hong Kong Park and Happy Valley have not been closed for 21 days? This seems rather inconsistent.
A. It is inconsistent, and the Government has provided no logical explanation.  The reality is that there is no risk of infection to the public within 30cm of the bird, let alone 3km!  

Q17. So the Government is right to allow the public to continue to use the parks?
A. Yes, because there is no risk. They are just discriminating against bird watchers, perhaps because "bird watcher" and "bird flu" both have "bird" in the name. Watch out if you drive a Nissan Bluebird! This may not be the real reason but it is just as sensible as the reasons proposed by the Government.

Q18. So how has the Government come up with these measures? Were bird watchers or wild bird experts consulted?
A. After the Government had failed to consult the environmental NGOs LegCo forced the Government to consult HKBWS and WWF.  But this did not happen until after the guidelines had been drawn up. After the consultation the guidelines were not changed because the Government decided it was too much trouble to seek approval from the vets, doctors and disease specialists and other bureaucrats(who know very little about wild birds) for new guidelines. So the current guidelines remain and do nothing except make people frightened for no reason and deprive the elderly of a chance to serve the community.
Mike KilburnVice Chairman, HKBWSChairman, Conservation Committee