An unnamed person in the South West of England has caught avian flu after prolonged contact with a large number of infected birds, the UK Health Security Agency has confirmed
Image: AFP via Getty Images)
A British person has been infected with bird flu after a new major outbreak among the avian population.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed a case of avian influenza in an unidentified person in the South West of England.
Bird to human transmission of avian flu is very rare and has only occurred a small number of times in the UK previously.
“The person acquired the infection from very close, regular contact with a large number of infected birds, which they kept
in and around their home over a prolonged period of time,” the UKHSA said.
“All contacts of the individual, including those who visited the premises, have been traced and there is no evidence of
onward spread of the infection to anyone else.
“The individual is currently well and self-isolating. The risk to the wider public from avian flu continues to be very low.”
It added that people should not, however, touch sick or dead birds.
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The UK has recently seen a large number of outbreaks and incidents of avian influenza in birds across the country of the H5N1 strain and Animal and Plant health Agency (APHA) and the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer have issued alerts to bird owners.
This particular human case was detected through routine monitoring by APHA on anyone who has had close contact with infected birds.
They were swabbed and low levels of flu were detected before laboratory analysis revealed the virus was the H5 type.
Though it is not currently possible to confirm if it is the H5N1 infection currently circulating.
Based on the available evidence, the World Health Organisation has been notified.
The infected birds have all been culled.
This is the first human case of this strain in the UK, although there have been cases elsewhere globally.
Professor Isabel Oliver, Chief Scientific Officer at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “While the risk of avian flu to the general public is very low, we know that some strains do have the potential to spread to humans and that’s why we have robust systems in place to detect these early and take action.
“Currently there is no evidence that this strain detected in the UK can spread from person to person, but we know that viruses evolve all the time and we continue to monitor the situation closely.
“We have followed up all of this individual’s contacts and have not identified any onward spread.
“It remains critical that people do not touch sick or dead birds, and that they follow the DEFRA advice about reporting.”
The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said: “While avian influenza is highly contagious in birds, this is a very rare event and is very specific to the circumstances on this premises.
“We took swift action to limit the spread of the disease at the site in question, all infected birds have been humanely culled, and cleansing and disinfection of the premises is underway. This is a reminder that stringent cleanliness when keeping animals is important.
“We are seeing a growing number of cases in birds on both commercial farms and in backyard flocks across the country. Implementing scrupulous biosecurity measures will help keep your birds safe.”