In an unprecedented amount of cases, the UK is currently experiencing 'a phenomenal level' of avian flu, according to Dr Christine Middlemiss, the UK's Chief Veterinary Officer.
Thousands of farmed birds culled
In mid-October, avian flu, or H5N1, was first detected in the UK in a swan sanctuary before rapidly spreading out and killing a flock of swans in Stratford-on-Avon and the Diglis Basin in Worcester.
Since, further considerable outbreaks have been detected in Northern Ireland and Scotland. As a result of the mass infection, more than10,000 farmed birds have had to be culled to prevent the virus from further spreading and causing more damage.
Is this a risk for humans?
Health officials have warned that the risk this might pose to humans, what with the resurgence of the COVID-19 virus through the Omicron variant, is very low. Dr. Middlemiss explained:
Whilst we're happy that there are not going to be any food supply issues, because of the overall large number of chickens and eggs and things we produce, it is devastating for those individual companies involved. It's also devastating for people who keep yard flocks.
Although the risk of contamination onto humans is very low, experts discourage people to have any contact with possibly infected birds as this could still lead to health complications. Despite the warnings, store-bought eggs are not suspected of being contaminated, as the number of farms affected is relatively low in proportion to the total amount of production. Dr. Middlemiss said:
We're not on our own. There are a large number of outbreaks across the EU happening. This is a different strain to last year. We do need to understand why we are seeing more year-on-year outbreaks, and understand what's behind that.
We can't wait until another year and have an even bigger outbreak. So, we will be working not just with our own scientists but internationally, to understand more of what we can do about what's behind it.