Hong Kong’s government has temporarily closed the city’s famous pet bird market after a bird up for sale was found to be carrying the H5N1 bird flu virus.
Bird Garden in the city’s busy Mongkok district is popular with the locals and with foreigners, and is usually bustling with residents bargaining for exotic birds as pets. Now, however, no one is allowed to enter.
The shutters of most of the 70 shops are down. Some vendors have put up banners, one reading “This tourist spot has been turned into a ruin”.
Hong Kong’s health officials recently closed the bird market after a starling there was found to be carrying the H5N1 avian flu virus. All birds in that shop were removed and the market vendors were asked to thoroughly clean and disinfect their stalls. Hong Kong’s agriculture and fisheries department has been collecting and testing samples from bird stalls to test for avian flu viruses.
A veterinarian working for the department, Eric Tai, said that the last batch of samples was collected this week. “â€¦and if things go well, when everything is negative, showing there is no virus around, when that result comes out, then we will be opening the market again.”
When the market opens, the department will introduce stricter regulations to ensure that all birds on sale are from approved sources, have valid health certificates and have been legally imported into Hong Kong.
The starling carrying the bird flu virus had no health certificate, raising suspicion it might have been smuggled into Hong Kong.