Amid outbreak of bird flu, UK reports rare human case – 11/01/2022

The health safety agency of the United Kingdom reported, last Thursday (6), a case of avian flu in a resident of the southwest of the country. When announcing the case, the agency insisted on reinforcing that the risk of transmission of bird flu viruses to humans is still “very rare” and has occurred very few times in the country.

The human contagion has been identified amid the UK’s biggest ever bird flu outbreak, with more than 60 confirmed cases since last November. Dozens of commercially bred birds, including chickens, ducks and geese, were euthanized.

The outbreak of avian influenza in the country involves the Influenza A virus of the H5N1 subtype. However, it is not yet known if it is the same that infected the British. Laboratory tests only identified that it was a virus of the H5 lineage.

The government did not provide details of the individual, only that he is well and in isolation at home. And there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

The case was identified after the Agency for Plant and Animal Health (APHA) identified an outbreak of H5N1 in the flock of man-made birds, which kept many infected animals in and around the house. According to the APHA protocol, all persons in contact with sick animals are examined. This is how human contagion was identified. The infected birds were all sacrificed.

“There is currently 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.”
Isabel Oliver, Scientific Director of the UK Health Safety Agency

If contagion of people from birds is considered rare, transmission of avian influenza viruses between humans is even more uncommon. But it has already occurred and can cause serious illness. Therefore, these outbreaks are strictly monitored by health authorities.

First human case was recorded in 1997

H5N1 has been known since the middle of the last century, but it was first isolated from humans in 1997, in a child in Hong Kong. In 2003, outbreaks of avian influenza in humans were reported in South Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong and other Asian locations.

In 2004, the outbreaks gained pandemic status, contaminating and leading to death hundreds of people in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, China and Cambodia, mainly. At the time, there were fears that H5N1 would become as deadly as the Spanish flu virus (H1N1), which killed tens of millions of people worldwide. After a great effort by Asian countries and the sacrifice of millions of birds, the outbreak was brought under control.

Since 2003, the WHO has reported 863 human cases and 456 confirmed deaths from Influenza A (H5N1). More than half of these cases and deaths were recorded between 2004 and 2009.

In 2015, the avian flu scare again due to an increase in outbreaks of the disease in Egypt. There were 136 cases and 39 deaths. Since 2018, there have been only two cases and one confirmed death from the disease, according to the WHO.

about the virus

H5N1 is common in nature, being found in wild migratory birds, which tend to experience less severe symptoms. The problem is when this virus spreads in birds that are less accustomed to them, such as domestic ones. When it reaches commercial farms, where the birds live in clusters, the outbreak can often only be controlled by sacrificing the animals.

To infect humans, the virus needs to undergo mutations that allow it to overcome our immune system and reproduce in our cells. It’s not that simple, but when the virus finds freedom to spread in farms, it finds the perfect environment for mutations. Still, a person needs to have contact with the sick bird or its feces to become infected.

Other subtypes of avian influenza viruses are of concern around the world. China recorded 21 cases of human infections with the H5N6 strain in 2021. This is 16 more than in 2020.

Last year also recorded the first cases of human contagion of two subtypes of avian flu: H10N3, in China, and H5N8, in Russia. The latter has caused several outbreaks of the disease in birds in Belgium, Holland, France, Denmark and Germany. Experts consider the risk of a large-scale spread of these viruses low.

About Abhishek Pratap

Food maven. Unapologetic travel fanatic. MCU's fan. Infuriatingly humble creator. Award-winning pop culture ninja.

Check Also

12-year-old teenager dies of Covid-19 in Teresina; Piauí recorded another four deaths | Piauí

A 12-year-old teenager died of Covid-19 in Teresina, according to the Secretary of State for …