Bird flu discovered in a person in South West England, UKHSA confirms

A person in the South West of England has been confirmed as having contracted bird flu, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.

In a statement, the agency said that it is “extremely rare” for strains of avian influenza to pass from birds to humans.

They added: “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 case was detected by officials swabbing people who had close contact with infected flocks, and they discovered “low levels of flu” in the patient.

Laboratory analysis revealed the virus was the ‘H5’ type found in birds, but it has not yet been possible to confirm it is a H5N1 infection – the strain currently circulating in birds in the UK.

The World Health Organisation has been notified.

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.”

In December, poultry keepers were urged to help stop the spread of avian flu after several small outbreaks over recent months.

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