Bird flu arrives in Britain

Health officials in the UK are investigating two possible cases of bird flu in north Wales and say 36 people could have been in contact with the disease.

Of the 36 people, 11 appear to have conjunctivitis or flu-like symptoms, but the National Public Health Service for Wales says no one is seriously ill and there is not a "significant risk" to public health.

Tests are also being carried out at a farm on the outskirts of Efailnewydd, near Pwllheli on the Llyn Peninsula, which has been has been linked to poultry sold at Chelford Market, in Cheshire.

One case of a mild form of bird flu has been confirmed at a smallholding in Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr, near Cerrigydrudion, Conwy.

According to the National Public Health Service (NPHS) possible contacts with bird flu includes anyone who has been in contact with affected premises, or have either handled or come very close to infected poultry; it also includes people who have had close contact with another person with confirmed or suspected bird flu.

Dr. Marion Lyons, lead consultant in communicable disease control with the NPHS says the H7N2 strain identified at the farm in Corwen is "very mild" compared to the more virulent H5N1.

Four people two from Wales and two from north-west England have been found to have contracted bird flu following the outbreak at Corwen and another four are being treated as having had the disease.

That case was confirmed last week after 15 Rhode Island Red chickens died on the farm; the farm's owners Tony Williams and Barbara Cowling, have tested negative for the virus.

The chickens were bought at some 70 miles (112 km) away, on 7 May also at Chelford Market; another 30 birds have now been slaughtered.

Dr. Lyons says while the person-to-person spread of the bird flu virus is very unusual it cannot be completely ruled out.

A helpline (number 0845 600 3678) is open from 0700 - 2000 BST daily and has up to date information about bird flu.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is also calling on people who purchased from or supplied to Chelford Market, Cheshire, on Monday, 7 May, or any poultry keeper who visited the market on that day whose birds have subsequently become ill, to contact their local animal health office or the DEFRA helpline 08459 335577.

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