Respiratory Infections

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Respiratory Infections

Avian Influenza


Avian influenza, or "bird flu", is a contagious disease of animals caused by viruses that normally infect only birds and less commonly, pigs. While all bird species are thought to be susceptible to infection, domestic poultry flocks are especially vulnerable to infections that can rapidly cause epidemics in poultry.

Of particular concern, in terms of risks for human health, is the detection of a highly pathogenic strain, known as "H5N1" or "H7N9", as the cause of most of these outbreaks. H5N1 or H7N9 has jumped the species barrier, causing severe disease in humans.

The symptoms of avian influenza in humans vary considerably depending on the strain or subtype of the virus involved. Most infections take the form of a flu-like illness such as fever, cough, body or muscle pain, sore throat and runny nose. Other symptoms can include conjunctivitis (red, sore and discharging eyes).

Avian influenza A(H5N8)

Incidents where avian influenza A(H5N8) is identified in wild or domestic birds occur frequently across the world, particularly in the Far East. There is an increased detection in H5N8 in wild birds across Europe at this time, with a number of incidents of infection in domestic flocks in Europe. Consequently there is an increased risk of avian influenza A(H5N8) in wild birds and domestic flocks in Scotland.

Risk assessments have been undertaken by:

As a result, the Scottish Government has announced an avian influenza prevention zone external weblink for 30 days from December 8 2016.

To date no human cases of infection with influenza A(H5N8) have been reported among those who have been exposed to infected birds. The public health risk is thought to be very low.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) lead on the surveillance of these events and have robust arrangements for the surveillance of avian influenza with the UK.

Should an incident arise, standard PHE guidance should be followed:

Influenza A H7N9 Guidance

Investigation and Management

Influenza A H5N1 Guidance

Investigation and Management

Infection Control Guidance

Case Reporting

Travel Advice

Publications and References - Public Health England

Investigation and Management of Zoonotic Disease in Scotland