An avian H5N1 influenza A virus (A/Hong Kong/156/97) was isolated from a tracheal aspirate obtained from a 3-year-old child in Hong Kong with a fatal illness consistent with influenza. Serologic analysis indicated the presence of an H5 hemagglutinin. All eight RNA segments were derived from an avian influenza A virus. The hemagglutinin contained multiple basic amino acids adjacent to the cleavage site, a feature characteristic of highly pathogenic avian influenza A viruses. The virus caused 87.5 to 100 percent mortality in experimentally inoculated White Plymouth Rock and White Leghorn chickens. These results may have implications for global influenza surveillance and planning for pandemic influenza.