Bird Flu Checks Reach Hospitals

Hospital patients and staff are being offered treatment by officials fighting a bird flu outbreak in north Wales. Nearly 80 at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd at Bodelwyddan are being offered tamiflu as a health worker is treated.

Around another 70 at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor are being contacted, and 12 people with flu-like symptoms or conjunctivitis have been identified.

Bird flu has been confirmed on a Conwy smallholding, but tests have now proved negative on a Llyn Peninsula farm. The National Public Health Service for Wales (NPHS) stressed that no-one has been seriously ill and the risk to the health of the general public is low.

So far the service has found a total of 221 people who may have come into contact with the virus, which is not as serious as the H5NI strand of the disease. The first confirmed case of the avian flu was confirmed last Thursday among chickens on a smallholding near Corwen in Denbighshire.

The Rhode Island chickens first affected were bought at a Chelford Market in Macclesfield, Cheshire on 7 May. On Saturday there were fears of a second possible case at a farm on the outskirts of Pwllheli on the Llyn Peninsula. But it has now been confirmed that poultry tests were negative.

Wales’ chief vet Dr Christianne Glossop said while they were very pleased with the results, they must “not be complacent so early in our investigations in the source of this outbreak”. She appealed for all bird keepers in Wales to continue being vigilant and to monitor their birds for any signs of infectious disease.

Some year five children at Ysgol Henllan in Denbighshire are being offered anti-viral treatment after one pupil was linked to the first smallholding. The NPHS said 79 patients and staff from ward six at Glan Clwyd Hospital were now being offered tamiflu as a precaution.

A further 69 patients and staff from the A&E unit, Tryfan and Gogarth wards at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor have been contacted because a patient, who has now been discharged, has also had treatment for the virus.

Marion Lyons, NPHS’s communicable disease control consultant, said: “We have assessed the risk to others and can confirm that the healthcare worker was working at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd during the time when she may have been infectious, between 21 and 23 May.

“The patient at Ysbyty Gwynedd may also have been infectious while at Ysbyty Gwynedd. However, as the patient was discharged on 18 May, and the incubation period is eight days, anyone would have had symptoms by 26 May.”

The NPHS stressed that experience of this particular bird flu virus in humans was limited, so it was “actively managing” the response. Person-to-person spread would be very unusual, it said, but limited spread has been seen elsewhere in the past.

Dr Lyons added: “We are looking for people who have had flu-like symptoms or conjunctivitis. It is the symptoms which are important to identify. It is reassuring that so few of the large number of contacts have had symptoms. People can also be confident that, the more remote the contact with infected birds, the less likely that symptoms that we have defined would really be H7 flu”.