The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has published its latest technical briefing on avian influenza (influenza A H5N1). UKHSA continues to work with partners including the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to assess the risk to human health from avian influenza and improve understanding of the virus.
UKHSA states that:
“While the very high levels of transmission in wild birds present a constant risk, there is no evidence so far that the virus is getting better at infecting humans or other mammals.
“People who have had contact with infected birds enter a period of monitoring by UKHSA health protection teams, with the level of monitoring dependent of whether individuals were wearing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). Between 1 October 2022 and 14 February 2023, 2,310 people were monitored through this process, with samples taken from people who developed any flu or cold like symptoms in the 21 days following their contact with an infected bird. No positive cases have been found to date.”
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.”
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.