LONDON (TheBlaze/AP) — Chickens were being killed in the Netherlands, and Britain was preparing to kill ducks, after two cases of bird flu were discovered in Europe. Officials insisted that the risk to public health was very low, but it's still possible for humans to become infected.
British officials said they were investigating a case of the H5 bird flu virus in northern England, but noted it's not the more dangerous H5N1 strain. They said all 6,000 ducks at a breeding farm in the Driffield area of East Yorkshire will be killed and a restriction zone was being set up to prevent further spread of the infection. Tests were also being carried out at nearby farms.
The U.K. government food agency said there is no risk to the food chain and British Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens told BBC the risk of the disease spreading is probably quite low.
Elizabeth Mumford, an expert with the World Health Organization, though told Reuters that some human cases could crop up.
"I don't see why we wouldn't," she said. "If it's really circulating widely, there's no reason we shouldn't see human cases."
This strain, H5N7, is not known to infect humans but it does come with the possibility.
"We believe any time that humans are in close contact with poultry, there's a possibility of transmission to humans," Mumford said, according to Reuters.
On the other hand, the more virulent strain, H5N1, has infected humans. Recently an Egyptian woman diagnosed with this form of bird flu died, making it the second fatality in Egypt to the virus this year out of seven cases. Overall, the H5N1 virus is hard to catch.
Ducks look out from a duck breeding farm where a case of bird flu has been identified on in Nafferton, East Yorkshire. A duck breeding farm in northern England was closed off on Monday after an outbreak of bird flu, although officials said the risk to public health was 'very low'. (AFP/OLI SCARFF)
The Dutch government banned the transport of poultry and eggs throughout the Netherlands after finding the H5N8 strain of bird flu at a chicken farm earlier this week. All 150,000 chickens at the farm in Hekendorp, 40 miles south of Amsterdam, were being killed and 16 other nearby farms were being checked. It was not clear how the farm became infected.
Spokeswoman Catherine Bertrand-Ferrandis of the World Organization for Animal Health said Dutch authorities are taking "all the correct, normal measures" and that culling the chickens is "the only way to limit the contagion"
On the British case, she said cases found in ducks are "usually weakly pathogenic," as opposed to the "highly pathogenic" versions that caused panic in the past. She said there is usually "very little risk of contagion" in duck cases.