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  • UK reports human case of avian flu

    Author: AAP

The United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says there has been a confirmed human case of avian flu in southwest England, adding that the person had been in close contact with infected birds and there was no evidence of onward transmission.

"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.

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"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," it added.

"The individual is currently well and self-isolating."

The UKHSA said the risk to the wider public from avian flu continues to be very low but said people should not touch sick or dead birds.

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

The UK has recently registered a large number of bird flu outbreaks among animals, with the UK's Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss issuing warnings to bird owners over hygiene.

On December 21, she said the UK faced its largest ever outbreak of bird flu with more than 60 cases confirmed across the country since the start of November.

Some strains of bird flu can pass from birds to people but this is extremely rare, according to the UKHSA.

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 also very rare, the organisation said.

The case was detected after the Animal and Plant health Agency identified an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in a flock of birds.

The infected birds have all been culled.

As a precaution, the UKHSA swabbed the person involved and detected low levels of flu.

Further lab analysis showed that the virus was the H5 type found in birds.

The UKHSA said 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.

But the UKHSA has notified the World Health Organisation as a precaution.

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

For contacts of an infected person who have the highest risk, the UKHSA contacts them daily to see if they have developed symptoms.

People are also offered anti-viral treatment after exposure to infected birds to stop the virus reproducing in their body.

Swabs are also carried out on people even if they do not have symptoms.

with reporting from PA

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