Bird flu or avian flu, an infectious form of influenza spread between birds has been discovered in a human patient in a rare UK case.
Transmission of the virus from a bird to a human is extremely rare and has only happened a handful of times in this country.
In recent years there have been four strains to cause concern among specialists, H5N1 (since 1997), H7N9 (since 2013), H5N6 (since 2014) and H5N8 (since 2016).
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The first of these H5N1, was confirmed to have appeared in the patient today by the UK Health Security Agency.
This was identified after the Animal and Plant Health Agency found the strain in the patient’s flock of birds through routine monitoring.
(Image: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
In recent months the UK has seen a number of large breakouts of avian flu among birds of the same H5N1 strain, with the APHA and UK Chief Veterinary Officer issuing alerts to bird owners each time.
The person infected contracted the virus after close regular contact with a large number of infected birds, kept in and around their home over an extended period of time.
The infected birds have now all been culled and all the contacts of the patient have been traced.
According to the UKHSA, there is no evidence the virus has spread to anyone else and the individual is currently well and self-isolating.
It’s very unlikely that another person will catch bird flu, so there is no cause for alarm.
The virus is spread through close contact with an infected bird either living or dead.
This can include touching infected birds, touching infected droppings or bedding, or killing or preparing infected poultry for cooking.
You cannot catch bird flu by eating fully cooked eggs or poultry though even in an area where there has been a bird flu breakout.
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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.”
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