bird flu

The case comes as the number of egg-laying birds culled during the latest outbreak neared 1.8 million

British health officials on Thursday reported a rare case of human-variant avian flu in the south west of England.

The infected man, who was said to be “well and self-isolating”, had been in what the UK Health Security Agency described as “very close, regular contact with a large number of infected birds”. 

The agency said bird-to-human transmission of avian influenza “previously only occurred a small number of times in the UK”. Isabel Oliver, the chief scientific officer, said “there is no evidence that this strain detected in the UK can spread from person to person”.

It comes as the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health said on Wednesday that the current wave of bird flu sweeping Europe and the UK posed a greater risk of spreading to humans than in previous outbreaks due to a high number of variants.

The case was reported as numbers infected with the contagious Omicron coronavirus variant soar across the UK, while animal health authorities have officially confirmed 77 cases of avian influenza in birds since the start of the latest spread last year.

The government has imposed restrictions on flocks and farms that include a requirement to keep birds locked up amid what British Poultry Council CEO Richard Griffiths described as the country’s “worst-ever” bird flu outbreak.

However, the impact of the crisis remains to some degree unknown. Almost 1.8 million egg-laying birds, out of a total of around 26.5 million, have been culled, according to the British Free Range egg Producers Association, a toll that does not include losses among the the hundreds of millions of broilers or birds reared for meat.

At least 1.7 million birds culled due to bird flu, according to egg body