First Brit ever infected with deadly bird flu after outbreak – but 'risk to public is low'

A BRIT is being treated for deadly bird flu in a UK first.

The disease – also known as avian flu – is often found in poultry and wild fowl but rarely spreads to humans.

Until now, there have been no documented cases of the particular strain in Britain.

According to the World Health Organisation, fatality rates are around 53 per cent in humans.

A source said the case in a man from the South West was picked up after routine surveillance testing was triggered by infection in his flock.

Lab tests show the man is infected with an H5 strain of bird flu, most likely the H5N1 type.

He is currently isolating at home, with a source saying contact tracing has been completed and there is no evidence of onward transmission.

They added: “The risk to the public is very low. The case was detected as part of our surveillance systems in place around avian flu as it is something we need to take very seriously.”

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Recent outbreaks in the South West were reported last month near Newent in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, Buckfastleigh in Devon, Swindon in Wiltshire and Pokesdown in Dorset.

Cases elsewhere in the country were also confirmed in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Essex, Leicestershire, Lancashire, North Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Cumbria, Cheshire, South Suffolk and Norfolk.

According to the NHS, no humans in the UK have been infected with four main types of bird flu – H5N1, H7N9, H5N6 or H5N8.

But there have been cases of different strains more than a decade ago.

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.”

Symptoms of bird flu:

Call a GP or NHS 111 if you experience any symptoms of bird flu and have visited an area affected by bird flu in the past 10 days.

The main symptoms of bird flu can appear very quickly and include:

  • a very high temperature or feeling hot or shivery
  • aching muscles
  • headache
  • a cough or shortness of breath

Other early symptoms may include:

  • diarrhoea
  • sickness
  • stomach pain
  • chest pain
  • bleeding from the nose and gums
  • conjunctivitis

It usually takes three to five days for the first symptoms to appear after you've been infected.

Within days of symptoms appearing, it's possible to develop more severe complications such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Britain is currently facing its largest ever outbreak of bird flu with over 60 cases confirmed across the country since the start of November.

To help slow the spread, all keepers have been ordered to keep chickens, ducks, geese and any other birds indoors.

Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease as it can spread to people – and triggers mass culls of infected flocks.

Until now, most cases in humans have been found in China and the Western Pacific.

But fatality rates are high, with more than half of recorded cases dying from the virus.

According to the World Health Organisation, there were 863 cases of human infection with H5N1 strain since 2003, with 456 fatalities.

Cases of infected birds have also today been reported near Eton College where Boris Johnson, Prince William and Prince Harry were pupils.


The exact location hasn't been revealed but DEFRA said a "captive bird monitoring controlled zone has been put in place around the premises, spanning three kilometres, and all birds there will be humanely culled".

It will alarm wildlife lovers because the 3km "killing zone" so close to Eton will cover the River Thames, where there are hundreds of swans – legally owned by the Queen.

It comes after the UK's chief vet warned last month there is a "phenomenal level" of bird flu in the country after tens of thousands of farmed birds were culled.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was declared across the UK on November 3 before being extended on November 29 with the added requirement all captive birds had to be kept indoors.

This was done amid concerns that wild birds migrating from mainland Europe during the winter are carrying the disease.

The risk to human health from avian influenza remains very low, according to public health advice, and there is a low food safety risk.

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