A/Hong Kong/483/97 (H5N1) influenza virus (HK483) isolated from the third patient during the outbreak of chicken and human influenza in Hong Kong in 1997 was shown to be neurovirulent in mice. HK483 was inoculated intranasally to mice, and the invasion routes of the virus in the central nervous system (CNS) were investigated by immunohistochemical and in situ hybridization. The pathological changes consisted of bronchopneumonia, ganglionitis, and nonpurulent encephalomyelitis of the brain stem and the anterior part of the thoracic cord. Viral antigens and viral nucleic acids (RNA and mRNA) were demonstrated in the pterygopalatine, trigeminal and superior ganglions prior to or simultaneously with their detection in the CNS. The antigens and nucleic acids were also observed in the olfactory bulb from an early stage of the infection. In the spinal cord, virus-infected cells were first demonstrated in the grey matter of the thoracic cord. The virus, which primarily replicated in the lungs, was considered to invade the thoracic cord via cardiopulmonary splanchnic nerves and sympathetic nerves. These findings indicate that the virus reached the CNS through afferent fibers of the olfactory, vagal, trigeminal, and sympathetic nerves following replication in the respiratory mucosa.