Bird Flu Infects Two People in Wales After Outbreak (Update1)
By Jason Gale
May 28 (Bloomberg) -- A mild strain of bird flu infected two people in Wales and may have sickened at least nine others following an outbreak of the virus on a chicken farm last week.
The ``low-pathogenic'' H7N2 strain of avian influenza was confirmed in two people with flu-like illnesses linked with a farm in Corwen in North Wales, the National Public Health Service for Wales said in a statement yesterday on its Web site.
Disease trackers are monitoring avian flu outbreaks after the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain spread to 59 countries over the past four years, sparking concern that the virus might touch off the first flu pandemic in almost four decades. The H7N2 strain is a much smaller threat to people, doctors said.
``We believe the risk to the health of the general public is low,'' Marion Lyons, the Service's lead consultant in communicable disease control, said in the statement. ``Avian flu is primarily a disease of birds. H7N2 is different to and very mild compared with H5N1.''
At least two human cases of H7N2 have been associated with previous outbreaks in poultry: in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley in 2002 and in a man from Yonkers, New York, about a year later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
``Experience of this particular bird flu virus in humans is limited so we are actively managing the public health response,'' Lyons said.
Concern that avian flu could become a health threat in the U.K. was heightened in February, when about 160,000 turkeys were culled after a turkey farm in Holton, eastern England, was infected with the H5N1 virus.
The H5N1 strain has infected 307 people in a dozen countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the World Health Organization said on May 24. Three of every five patients died of the illness. The virus may kill millions if it adapts to humans and starts spreading as easily as seasonal flu, according to the United Nations health agency.
The group of influenza viruses known as type A is the only one capable of causing pandemics. Viruses in this group are divided further into 16 subtypes according to their hemagglutinin -- one of the two surface proteins that governs the ability of the virus to bind to and enter cells.
A pandemic can start when a novel A-type virus, to which almost no one has natural immunity, emerges and begins spreading. ...