UK public told to avoid dead birds as deadly bird flu claims human victim

The UK Government has issued advice while stating that it is “remaining vigilant” after it emerged that deadly bird flu has claimed a human victim.

The worst fears of scientists and experts came to fruition on Thursday (February 23) when an 11-year-old girl in Cambodia died from avian flu.

The girl first became ill just six days before her death, and suffered from a fever, cough and sore throat.

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Her death was confirmed by the country's Communicable Disease Control Department, who said that the girl from the Prey Veng province “tested positive for H5N1”.

As a result, the World Health Organization has said: "The recent spillover to mammals needs to be monitored closely."

And it came just weeks after we reported a deadly strain of the bird flu had mutated and can now impact mammals.

As a result, the UK's Health Security Agency has now issued a measured warning.

Dr Meera Chand, incident director for avian influenza at UKHSA, said: “The latest evidence suggests that the avian influenza viruses we’re seeing circulating in birds do not currently spread easily to people.

“However, viruses constantly evolve, and we remain vigilant for any evidence of changing risk to the population, as well as working with partners to address gaps in the scientific evidence."

And a UKHSA spokesman said: “UKHSA is working with partners to identify ‘knowledge gaps’ around avian influenza, including whether lateral flow devices could be deployed to test for H5N1 in humans, developing a blood test that detects antibodies against the virus and analysis of the genetic mutations that would signal an increased risk to human health.”

They also issued two key rules for the human population to adhere to in order to avoid getting the virus, which are:

  • avoid contact with sick or dead wild birds in public areas such as parks or waterways

  • wash hands after feeding wild birds

The UK has not yet had any positive cases, however 2,310 people were tested for it between October 1, 2022, and February 14, 2023.

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