Introduction to Avian Influenza (AI)
- Avian Influenza (AI) is a disease of birds, not humans. But humans can occasionally be affected.
- There are both high pathogenic (HPAI) and low pathogenic (LPAI) forms and many strains.
- LPAI does not always show up as disease in birds. However, it is present in some areas of the global wildfowl population.
- LPAI can mutate into HPAI, especially when introduced into poultry populations.
- Some strains of HPAI spread easily between birds and cause illness, with a high death rate, very quickly in poultry populations.
- In rare cases, some HPAI strains can lead to severe illness and deaths in humans usually where there has been close contact with infected birds.
- There are a limited number of reported cases of human-to-human spread of AI.
- There is a possibility that were an individual to be infected with human and bird flu viruses there may be the potential for the virus to combine and produce a more dangerous variant which could spread from human to human.
- It is therefore very important to ensure that any outbreak of AI is controlled quickly and that workers and veterinarians in close contact with infected birds are well protected. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has a contingency plan in place to ensure that this is so.
- DARD and key stakeholders are working closely together to ensure that the NI response to current circumstances is proportionate, appropriate and comprehensive. Key stakeholders agree that good vigilance and a high standard of biosecurity are required at the moment.