Avian influenza, which is commonly known as bird flu is a disease which primarily affects birds, poultry, and captive birds. While there are very rare, isolated cases of the virus in humans, evidence suggests that the virus does not spread easily between people.
The UKHSA have a comprehensive monitoring system in place to prevent the disease from spreading. When bird flu is confirmed or suspected, virus control zones and restrictions are put in place around the infected area to prevent it from spreading onwards. Bird flu is easily spread through close contact with an infected bird which can either be alive or dead. Signs that a bird may be infected can include, sudden death, swollen head, and closed/runny eyes.
The UKHSA also have measures in place to monitor individuals who have had exposures to such cases. If a human is infected with the virus, the symptoms can appear very quickly and are known to be flu like such as a high temperature, body aches, cough, or shortness of breath. People who develop flu like symptoms are swabbed and tested for bird flu during the monitoring period.
Evidence suggests that the bird flu virus in the UK do not spread easily to humans. However, viruses do constantly evolve, and UKHSA remain vigilant for any evidence of this happening in the event of a pandemic. The UKHSA is working on identifying knowledge gaps on bird flu, including whether lateral flow tests could be the key to testing for the virus in humans. As there has been no evidence of sustained transmission of the virus between humans globally, outbreaks of other respiratory viruses have been used to help us determine which testing and monitoring systems would be necessary in the event of an outbreak to detected cases of bird flu in humans.