The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed that a person in the South West of England has contracted bird flu.
The UKHSA said that it is “extremely rare” for avian influenza to pass to humans from birds.
The agency 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.”
Officials found the case as they were swabbing those who had close contact with flocks of infected birds and found “low levels of flu.”
Analysis found the virus is the H5 type which is found in birds, but they have not been able to confirm if it is a H5N1 infection which is currentl in circulation across the UK.
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.”
Professor Paul Wigley, professor of avian infection and immunity at the University of Liverpool, said, “Whilst avian influenza has the potential to be transmitted from poultry to humans it is very rare and, as in this case, usually due to close and long-term contact with infected birds.
“Avian influenza such as the H5 serotype is largely adapted to infect birds and so is very unlikely to be transmitted from person-to-person.
“The advice given by APHA and UKHSA over contact with infected birds is sensible and should be followed. The risk of wider infection in the general public remains low.”
Senior public health expert at the World Health Organization (WHO), David Nabarro, warned that should it mutate and become more transmissible, a pandemic caused by H5N1 could result in a death rate of anywhere between five and 150 million people.
Writing in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases scientists said last October, “If this virus acquires human-to-human transmissibility with its present fatality rate of 50%, the resulting pandemic would be akin to a global tsunami.
“If it killed those infected at even a fraction of this rate, the results would be catastrophic.”
Juliet Gellatley, founder and director of Viva! said, “The real problem is factory farming.
“Whilst wild birds undoubtedly contribute to the local spread of the virus in the wild, it is human commercial activities particularly those associated with poultry, that are the major factors responsible for the global spread of bird flu.”