Chinese New Year alert in Hong Kong after bird flu fatality

Authorities in Hong Kong are on high alert after a Chinese woman died from H5N6 bird flu in Shenzhen, which is located just across the border from the international financial center.

The death is worrisome to Chinese authorities coming as it does just before the Chinese New Year holiday in early February when millions of people fan out across the country to return to their home towns for family reunions and family meals that often include chicken, one of the main carriers of the disease.

So far the government of Hong Kong has not resorted to banning poultry imports from the mainland like it did in 2014 when it culled thousands of birds and banned imports after an H7 bird flu strain was discovered in live chickens, according to a report from Reuters.

The authorities have instituted disease prevention measures at border crossings--such as thermal imaging systems--to detect travellers who are running a fever.

The virus has shown up in wild bird in Hong Kong, according to a report by the Hong Kong Free Press. The website reported on Wednesday that a great egret was found dead in the city's Diamond Hill district and tested positive for the H5N6 virus. The bird was found on New Year's Eve and is the fourth case in Hong Kong. Authorities discovered infected birds in April, May and November last year, the HKFP reported.

Hong Kong authorities said they were monitoring wild birds in the city and were conducting inspections of poultry farms and wholesale markets as well.

- here's the report from Reuters and one from the Hong Kong Free Press