Travellers to China issued bird flu warning

The UK Health Security Agency has issued a warning to people travelling to China of the risk of avian flu.

Ahead of an anticipated rise in journeys to the country for the lunar new year festival next month, the UKHSA has flagged record numbers of human cases of H5N6 there, with over 20 cases occurring last year.

Before 2021, the largest number of cases of avian flu in China was in 2016, when 9 human cases of infection were reported.

Most cases reported by China have involved close contact with an infected bird. Transmission can occur through contact with dead or alive birds and markets where live birds are sold can be a source of infection. China has not reported any spread of H5N6 from person to person.

Though the risk to the UK public is very low, UKHSA and the National Travel Health Network and Centre are reminding UK travellers to the mainland to protect themselves by minimising exposure to wild birds and poultry while there.

Dr Gavin Dabrera, a consultant in acute respiratory infections at UKHSA, said: “Anyone visiting China should avoid exposure to any birds in wet markets as a precaution and maintain good hand hygiene while travelling.

“Avian influenza remains a risk in China and if travellers experience any flu like symptoms within 10 days of returning from China, they should call their GP or NHS 111 and report their recent travel activity. “These symptoms are similar to coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, so informing their GP or NHS 111 about their recent travel is important.”

NaTHNaC’s TravelHealthPro website has all the latest travel health recommendations for China and elsewhere https://travelhealthpro.org.uk

UK government advice relating to avian flu can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu

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