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Bird flu infects two workers in the poultry sector in England

The British Agency for Health and Safety (UK Health Security Agency, UKHSA) said two poultry workers in England tested positive for avian flu, strain A (H5).

The risk to the population would be very low, according to UKHSA. There are no reports of transmission between humans of the virus which, like everyone else, is capable of evolving. Monitoring continues. (1)

Two workers in the poultry sector positive for bird flu in the UK

UKHSA carries out an avian flu monitoring program in England, which includes tests on workers who have come into contact with infected birds, regardless of whether they show symptoms.

'The detection of avian influenza in poultry workers may be due to contamination of the nose and throat for having breathed the material present in the affected herd or it could be a real infection'. (1)

Based on exposure times and test results, explains UKHSA, 'it is probable that an individual has been infected by the inhalations in breeding', while there are doubts about the second worker.'Meanwhile a has been started contact search as a precaution for this second individual'.

First statements

The teacher UKHSA Chief Medical Adviser Susan Hopkins said the following.

  • 'Current evidence suggests that the avian flu viruses we are seeing circulating in birds around the world do not spread easily to people. However, we already know that the virus can spread to people through close contact with infected birds, which is why, through screening programs like this one, we are monitoring people who have been exposed to learn more about this risk.
  • Globally there is no evidence of person-to-person spread of this strain, but we know viruses are continually evolving and we remain vigilant for any evidence of changing risk to the population.
  • It remains crucial that people avoid touching sick or dead birds and that they follow the reporting instructions issued by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).'. (2)

Sovereign uncertainty

Diplomacy of UKHSA, in a press release modified on the day of its publication, can perhaps reassure those who know absolutely nothing about avian flu. In fact, the agency mentions strain A (H5) only once, without ever referring to the family it belongs to (highly pathogenic avian influence, HPAI).

Bird flu highly pathogenic is an unresolved crisis, as we have seen, especially in Northern Europe. (3) But the authorities of England and Wales had revoked the compulsory housing order on 18 April 2023. In the same period, it is easy to understand, in which UKHSA was conducting tests on infected animals.

The government in the meantime – as we learn on the page websites of HSE (Health and Safety Executive) referred to in the UKHSA press release – offers workers in contact with poultry a free flu shot. (4) Uncertainty reigns supreme in the country that caused the most serious international crisis in cattle breeding. Fasten your seat belts.

Dario Dongo


(1) Avian flu detected in 2 individuals taking part in testing programme. https://bit.ly/3BuuJ0v UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). Press release 16 May 2023

(2) Bird flu (avian flu): how to spot and report it in poultry or other captive birds. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

(3) Dario Dongo. boom of highly pathogenic avian influenza, Wageningen is testing three vaccines. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 11.10.22

(4) Working with highly pathogenic avian influenza virus. https://bit.ly/3MvkyOn HSE (Health and Safety Executive)

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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