Symptoms of bird flu to spot as 2 people the first in years to be infected in UK
What is Bird Flu?
Two people have tested positive for bird flu – the first human cases of the infection in the UK since 2021.
The poultry workers contracted the strain of influenza after coming into contact with infected birds, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed yesterday.
They have since tested negative and close contacts have been notified.
The UKHSA said it was unlikely the infection had been passed from human to human but warned it was “critical” that people avoid touching sick or dead birds.
Since October 2021 there have been more than 330 outbreaks of bird flu across poultry farms in Britain, resulting in the culling of millions of birds.
The new infections were discovered following the introduction of an asymptomatic testing programme for people who have been in contact with infected birds.
Although there is “no evidence” that the infection can pass between people the UKHSA said it will remain “vigilant” to any changes.
In an update, Professor Susan Hopkins – chief medical advisor at the UKHSA – said: “Current evidence suggests that the avian influenza viruses we’re seeing circulating in birds around the world do not spread easily to people.
“However, we know already that the virus can spread to people following close contact with infected birds and this is why, through screening programmes like this one, we are monitoring people who have been exposed to learn more about this risk.
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“Globally there is no evidence of spread of this strain from person to person, but we know that viruses evolve all the time and we remain vigilant for any evidence of changing risk to the population.
“It remains critical that people avoid touching sick or dead birds, and that they follow the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) advice about reporting.”
How bird flu is spread
According to the NHS, bird flu is spread by “close” contact with infected birds.
- Touching infected birds
- Touching droppings or bedding
- Killing or preparing infected poultry for cooking.
However, UKHSA said the poultry workers could have been infected via the nose or mouth from breathing in “material” on the farm, rather than through direct contact.
“It can be difficult to distinguish these in people who have no symptoms,” it said.
“Based on the timing of exposures and test results, one individual is likely to have had contamination of the nose and/or throat from material inhaled on the farm, while for the second individual it is more difficult to determine which is the case.
“Further investigation is under way but meanwhile precautionary contact tracing has been undertaken for this second individual.”
Symptoms of bird flu
The main symptoms of bird flu appear “quickly” and include:
- A very high temperature or feeling hot or shivery
- Aching muscles
- A cough or shortness of breath.
But some people could also experience:
- Stomach pain
- Chest pain
- Bleeding from the nose and gums
It typically takes three to five days for the first symptoms to appear after you’ve been infected.
It is also possible to develop more severe complications such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
If you experience any symptoms of bird flu or have travelled to an affected area in the last 10 days you should call 111.
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