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Human case of avian influenza detected in UK

An avian influenza outbreak

A CASE of H5 avian influenza has been confirmed in a person in the Southwest of England.

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) the person had close, regular contact with birds, which they kept both in and around their home.

See also: Winter 2021/2022 H5N1 avian influenza cases in UK and Europe

The human infection was identified after H5N1 avian influenza was confirmed in their flock.

Those in close contact with an infected flock of birds are routinely screened for avian influenza and offered antiviral treatments.

Contact tracing

In this case, low levels of H5 avian flu were detected.

The UKHSA said all contacts of the individual, including those who visited the premises, have been traced, and there is no evidence of the onward spread of the infection to anyone else.

It added the person was currently well and self-isolating.

Transmission rare

This is the first human case of this strain in the UK, although there have been cases elsewhere globally.

Bird-to-human transmission of avian flu is very rare and has previously only occurred a small number of times in the UK.


It is usually the result of close contact with infected birds. Human-to-human transmission is also considered very rare.

‘Take action’

Professor Isabel Oliver, chief scientific officer at UKHSA, 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.

Biosecurity

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss, added: “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.

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“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.”