First UK case of bird flu in humans - here's what you need to know

Credit: PA

A person has contracted bird flu in a UK first.

While the government has insisted there is no reason to be alarmed - is there anything you should worry about?

Although human cases of bird flu have been recorded in other areas of the world, the case in South West England is the first time it has happened in the UK.

The man has been identified as 79-year-old duck keeper Alan Gosling.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has stressed the risk to the wider public continues to be very low - but warned people not to touch sick or dead birds.George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, also stressed the risk to the wider public remains low.

“There is no need to be worried about this,” he told ITV News.

The UK is currently suffering from a huge outbreak of bird flu Credit: PA

What is bird flu?

Avian flu, also known as bird flu, is a type of influenza that spreads among birds.

The UK has recently seen a large number of outbreaks and incidents of avian influenza in birds across the country, with the government issuing warnings to bird owners across the country.

Some strains of bird flu can pass from birds to people, but this is extremely rare.

It usually requires close contact with an infected bird, so the risk to humans is generally considered very low.

Human to human transmission of bird flu is even rarer.

What have experts said about bird flu?Professor Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick, said: “The key thing is that human infections with H5N1 (a strain of bird flu) are really rare and they almost always occur as a result of direct, long-term contact with poultry.

“It can result in a nasty infection for the individual concerned but there has never been any evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of H5N1 so at present I wouldn’t consider this to be a significant public health risk.”

Professor Isabel Oliver, Chief Scientific Officer at UKHSA, said: "Currently there is no evidence that this strain detected in the UK can spread from person to person, but we know that viruses evolve all the time and we continue to monitor the situation closely. We have followed up all of this individual’s contacts and have not identified any onward spread.

“It remains critical that people do not touch sick or dead birds, and that they follow the DEFRA advice about reporting.”

How is Mr Gosling doing?

Mr Gosling caught bird flu after regular contact with a large number of infected birds, which he kept in and around his home over a prolonged period of time.

However, following his diagnoses, 140 of Mr Gosling's ducks were culled - 20 of whom lived inside the home with him.

His daughter-in-law, Ellesha Gosling, said the 79-year-old is coping well despite being devastated to have to put down his pets.

Alan Gosling's daughter-in-law on how the 79-year-old is coping

"He is just mentally very distraught and very disappointed in the outcome of the situation", Ms Gosling said.

Why is it hitting the UK?

The UK has recently seen a large number of bird flu outbreaks among animals, with the largest ever outbreak recorded last month in Northern Ireland.

The disease is being spread by migratory birds flying back from the north of Russia and eastern Europe.

The outbreaks have also impacted the Republic of Ireland.

What impact is it having on farmers?

The RSPB said bird flu is affecting a range of poultry operations across the UK.

Wild bird species involved are mostly geese, ducks and swans, but a number of birds of prey have also been confirmed to have died.

Chicken and other bird farms have also been heavily impacted by the disease.

Around half a million birds have been culled so far, according to UK chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss.

Just before Christmas, there were 40 infected premises in the UK – 38 in Great Britain including 33 in England.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was declared across the UK on November 3 before being extended on November 29 with the added requirement all captive birds have to be kept indoors.

The protection zone means, keepers must also take precautions such as regularly cleaning and disinfecting clothing, equipment and vehicles and limiting access to non-essential workers and visitors.