DEFRA announced an outbreak of Avian Flu north-east of Preston on Friday and have just confirmed the strain is a highly-pathogenic H7N7. We saw an outbreak in February this year of a low-path H7N7 avian influenza in Hampshire but this new outbreak is far more serious – for birds. The risk of it causing human disease is incredibly low.
In this context ‘highly pathogenic’ means it is highly contagious in flocks and will result in a high mortality rate in birds – but it is not the H5N1 avian strain which has led to hundreds of deaths in people worldwide and is also distinct from the H5N2 strain of avian flu that caused the recent outbreaks in the USA.
Most types of bird flu are harmless to humans but two types – H5N1 and H7N9 – continue to cause serious concerns. Other bird flu strains – including H7N7 – can and have infected people, but cases are very rare or have only rarely caused severe illness.
A temporary control zone imposed on Friday at the affected farm has now been replaced by a 10km surveillance zone with an inner 3km protection zone. Culling of all 200,000 birds at the farm is continuing. The restrictions mean that all poultry farms within the 10km control zone around the infected premises are not allowed to move poultry, captive birds or other animals except under licence.
Human infections with avian flu are rare, and the virus found in Lancashire is not seen as a major concern for human disease – the receptors in humans that avian flu strains can bind to are deep down in the lungs so to get it you need to be working with large numbers of infected birds and breathe deeply. It is not passed from person to person.
But while this particular outbreak has few public health implications, flu remains a serious illness that is a prolific killer both directly and indirectly, particularly in the very old, the very young, the pregnant, the obese and the infirm. You can find out more by clicking below and if you have any questions about the current outbreak or flu generally please contact us.