H5n1: UK taskforce established to combat bird flu spreading

Tuesday, June 21, 2022
author picture Ethan Guerin
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Original content created by news.limited staff

APHA's Weybridge Laboratory May Be Ineffective Against Bird Flu

Vaccines against avian influenza are in development worldwide. But if an aggressive strain develops‚ they may be ineffective. The National Audit Office recently warned that the poor state of APHA's Weybridge laboratory may hinder the UK's ability to respond to an outbreak. Fortunately‚ the government has begun measures to secure the future of the Weybridge laboratory. It will help APHA respond to any future bird flu outbreak.

Professor Ian Brown will oversee the research Eight leading UK labs have teamed up to create new methods to combat bird flu. PS1.5m has been awarded to the consortium to help develop strategies for tackling recent H5N1 outbreaks that have caused severe bird disease and even death. The poultry industry was hit hard by this strain of bird flu‚ and culls were ordered. Despite the low risk for humans‚ 2021 saw a significant increase in human mortality. a confirmed human case The strain is found in South West England. More than 120 cases of bird flu have been reported in wild and farmed birds. The UK's longest and largest ever avian influenza outbreak is occurring this winter. Scientists are still unsure why this year's outbreaks were worse than previous years. In 1996‚ H5N1 was identified for the first time in China's southern region by domestic waterfowl. According to the World Health Organisation‚ there were 864 and 456 cases respectively of H5N1 infection between 2003 and 2022 in 18 countries. This new UK consortium will study the best ways to stop future pandemics. Over a year‚ the PS1.5m will be allocated. Researchers will be asked to determine why this virus strain is causing a prolonged outbreak as well as why certain birds (such ducks) are more resistant than others. They'll examine how biosecurity gaps may have permitted the virus to spread from wild birds and farmed chickens. Globally‚ there are vaccines for bird flu that can be administered to people in the event of an aggressive strain being introduced from birds into humans. Human vaccine development will not involve the UK consortium. BBC News was told by Professor Ian Brown (APHA Head of Virology)‚ the top government animal virologist. He said that there are vaccine candidates for all of these new strains of poultry‚ should they make the leap to humans. Their appearances are constantly changing. We want to ensure that they don't become more dangerous to human health. This doesn't seem possible at this time... however‚ we must be vigilant. The National Audit Office is a watchdog for public spending. Last week‚ it was stated that the state of APHA's main laboratory at Weybridge may hinder the fight against diseases such as bird flu. It is possible that the UK could be hindered in its response to another outbreak of a disease. According to the government‚ it is taking measures to ensure that the facility's future remains secure. Phill Crawley is certain that no one could have foreseen the magnitude of the epidemic. Phill Crawley‚ a Leicestershire egg packer and producer of eggs‚ welcomed the news. Phill Crawley‚ a Leicestershire egg producer and packer of 550‚000 chickens‚ was struck by bird flu on November 1. 90% birds died in four days in one shed. The rest of the flock had to be killed. It is unlike anything I've ever seen. It overwhelmed the APHA. They were overwhelmed by it. This has been the worst outbreak this country has seen. He told BBC News that he doesn't believe anyone could have prepared for such a large-scale outbreak. He also stated that the consortium should answer key questions regarding the outbreak. It was previously more oven-orientated‚ i.e. It was previously more common in layers of meat chicken than it was in eggs. But what makes this strain so prevalent? What is the spread of this virus? Why is it so stubborn this season? It has been going on for so many years. It has been this brutal for so long. The consortium includes microbiologists and epidemiologists as well as virologists from APHA and The Pirbright Institute. Christine Middlemiss (UK's Chief Veterinarian Officer) stated that it would speed up and improve the quality of research in order to lessen the negative impact on poultry industry.