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The news that recently broke of a case of avian influenza on a poultry farm in Nafferton, East Yorkshire is disappointing news for British poultry farmers, but they and the British public should be reassured that this situation was identified early and that measures to contain the virus to the farm it was found on were promptly initiated by Defra.

Bird flu affects many species of birds, including chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese. It can be passed between commercial, wild and pet birds. Birds do not always get sick from infection, so seemingly healthy birds may still pose a risk to people who come into contact with them.

Bird flu, or avian flu, is an infectious viral illness that spreads among birds. In rare cases it can affect humans.

There are many types of bird flu, most of which are harmless to humans. However, two types have caused serious concern in recent years. These are the H5N1 (since 1997) and H7N9 (since 2013) viruses. However, Defra have already indicated that the avian influenza virus type involved is NOT the highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza known as H5N1 and so it is likely to be a relatively less significant strain of the virus.

How bird flu spreads to humans

Bird flu is spread through direct contact with infected birds (dead or alive), an infected bird's droppings, or secretions from their eyes or respiratory tract.

Close and prolonged contact with an infected bird is generally required for the infection to spread to humans. For example:

1)  touching infected birds that are dead or alive

2)  inhaling or being in contact with dried dust from the droppings or bedding of infected birds

3)  inhaling or being in contact with droplets sneezed by infected birds

4)  culling, slaughtering, butchering or preparing infected poultry for cooking

Bird flu is not transmitted through cooked food. Poultry and eggs are safe to eat in areas that have experienced outbreaks of bird flu.

Signs and symptoms

Like other types of flu, bird flu symptoms often include a high temperature, aching muscles, headache and respiratory symptoms such as a cough or runny nose. Most people with the condition rapidly develop more severe respiratory problems.

Diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal (tummy) pain, chest pain, and bleeding from the nose and gums have also been reported as early symptoms in some people.

Within days, potentially fatal complications such as acute respiratory distress syndrome and multiple organ failure may develop.

Having flu-like symptoms is extremely unlikely to mean you have bird flu, unless you have been in recent close contact with birds in an area where outbreaks have been reported.

Spectrum supplies several Approved Disinfectants for use in the control of Avian Influenza.

We recommend specific disinfectant dilution rates following the results of tests carried out using our disinfectants against various Avian Influenza strains. The dilution rates are also the same as the DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Approved Poultry Order dilution rates for these disinfectants, which DEFRA recommend using.   Call us for more information about these disinfectants.

The Department of Health also recommends the maintenance of good basic hygiene, such as frequent hand washing followed by hand disinfection with an alcohol hand rub, for example Handsan Hand Sanitiser or Purrell Hand Santiser, to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to your face, or to other people. The frequent cleaning of hard surfaces (e.g. worktops and door handles) to avoid possible human transmission is also recommended.