Rare human case of bird flu detected in UK

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In a rare case, a person living in the South West of England has contracted avian influenza, health officials said.

Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is a type of influenza that spreads among birds.

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), 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.

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. However, people should not touch sick or dead birds, the health regulator said.

“Bird-to-human transmission of avian flu is very rare and this is the first human case of this strain in the UK, although there have been cases elsewhere globally,” the agency said in a statement.

“Some strains of bird flu can pass from birds to people, but this is extremely rare. It usually requires close contact with an infected bird, so the risk to humans is generally considered very low. Human-to-human transmission of bird flu is very rare,” it added.

The UK has recently seen a large number of outbreaks and incidents of avian influenza in birds across the country of the H5N1 strain.

The human case was detected after the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) identified an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian flu in their flock of birds. The infected birds have all been culled.

The patient was detected with low levels of flu during routine monitoring of everyone within close contact of infected birds. Further laboratory analysis revealed that the virus was the ‘H5’ type, found in birds, the regulator said.

However, the regulator noted that “at this point it has not been possible to confirm that this is a H5N1 infection (the strain that is currently circulating in birds in the UK)”.

Based on the available evidence, they have also notified the World Health Organization.

“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,” said Professor Isabel Oliver, Chief Scientific Officer at UKHSA, in the statement.

“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,” Oliver said.

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