Officials considering vaccinating poultry for bird flu amid new pandemic fears
Professor Ian Brown, scientific services director at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) told the i newspaper that it is keeping the option on the table in what is the worst-ever global outbreak of the virus.
Professor Brown said that he had concerns that the virus could change to transmit between mammals, as well as a cluster of cases in humans in Cambodia which reportedly led to the death of an 11-year-old girl.
Experts and officials from both the APHA and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) are closely monitoring the risk from bird flu.
The current threat-level is level 3, meaning that there are changes in the virus which could lead to transmission between mammals.
Last week it was reported that the UKHSA is considering lateral flow tests to detect bird flu in humans, and is preparing precautionary measures for a potential new pandemic.
Professor Brown said that the situation is “totally unprecedented” with more than 300 outbreaks of bird flu on the country’s poultry farms since October 2021 leading to the deaths of millions of birds.
“At the moment, the UK is actively reviewing all of its plans for mitigation and prevention of avian influenza. Vaccination [of poultry] is one of them,” he said, adding: ““There is a cross-sector group looking at that.”
“Some sectors in Europe have been really, really badly hit. The French foie gras industry – the ducks have been massively hit over successive years, to the point where probably it’s been brought to its knees.
“So there’s been a lot of interest from some sectors saying we need to be able to try and protect our birds better.
“There would be a cost. It wouldn’t be a fix that means you could ignore your biosecurity, you vaccinate your birds and everything’s fine.”