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'Extremely rare' incidence of bird flu in human is detected in England

Theresa Braine, New York Daily News on

Published in Health & Fitness

A “very rare” case of bird flu was diagnosed in a person in southwest England, the U.K. Health Security Agency said Thursday.

The person had been in close contact with infected birds, and human-to-human transmission was neither suspected nor expected.

In fact, the bird flu is difficult to contract, the agency implied.

“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 agency said in a statement. “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 bird flu virus, H5N1, rarely infects humans, according to the Mayo Clinic and numerous other medical experts, and human-to-human transmission is rarer still.

The U.K. Health Security Agency emphasized that “people should not touch sick or dead birds.”

 

England is in the grip of its largest outbreak ever of H5N1 virus, which causes most cases of bird flu. England has reported 63 cases confirmed since November, and at least a million birds have been culled, mostly at poultry farms, BBC News reported Wednesday.

While the person infected with the pathogen had an H5 strain, but it wasn’t clear Thursday whether it was the same H5N1 strain that has been causing the outbreaks that forced the culling, BBC News reported.

British authorities have warned bird owners of an outbreak among wild birds and have reported this isolated incident to the World Health Organization.

“While avian influenza is highly contagious in birds, this is a very rare event and is very specific to the circumstances on this premises,” the U.K.’s chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, said in the security agency’s statement. “We took swift action to limit the spread of the disease at the site in question, all infected birds have been humanely culled, and cleansing and disinfection of the premises is underway.”

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