How fowl! Bird flu rise is blamed on trend for keeping chickens in gardens
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What is bird flu?

Bird flu, or avian flu, is an infectious type of influenza that spreads among bird species but can, on rare occasions, jump to human beings.

Like human influenza there are many strains of bird flu:

The current outbreak in birds in the UK is H5N1, the strain that the infected Briton has. 

Where has it been spotted in the UK?

A case of bird flu has been spotted in a human in the South West of England.

Officials did not disclose the exact location of the case, but UKHSA said all close personal contacts of the individual have been traced and there is ‘no evidence’ of the infection having spread to anyone else. 

The UK is facing a particularly bad year for cases in birds, with around one million having to be culled in Lincolnshire — where the virus was first spotted on December 11. 

Exclusion sites were put around Mablethorpe, Alford and South Elkington in the region. 

There have also been outbreaks North Yorkshire and Pocklington in East Yorkshire.

How deadly is the virus?

Fatality rates for bird flu in humans have been estimated to be as high as 50 per cent. 

But because transmission to humans is so rare, fewer than 500 bird flu deaths have been reported to the World Health Organization since 1997. 

Paul Wigley, professor of avian infection and immunity at the University of Liverpool, said: ‘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.’

Is it transmissible from birds to humans?

Cases of bird-to-human transmission are rare and usually do not spread on human-to-human.

Bird flu is spread by close contact with an infected bird or the body of one. 

This can include:

  • touching infected birds
  • touching droppings or bedding
  • killing or preparing infected poultry for cooking

Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, said: ‘Transfer of avian flu to people is rare as it requires direct contact between an infected, usually dead, bird and the individual concerned. 

‘It is a risk for the handlers who are charged with the disposal of carcasses after an outbreak but the virus does not spread generally and poses little threat. 

‘It does not behave like the seasonal flu we are used to.

‘Despite the current heightened concern around viruses there is no risk to chicken meat or eggs and no need for public alarm.’

What are the symptoms? 

Symptoms of bird flue usually take three to five days to appear with the most common being:  

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

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