UK could mass vaccinate chickens to prevent avian influenza

The UK government is actively considering vaccinating the country’s poultry flock against bird flu in a bid to curb the worst-ever global outbreak of the virus and prevent it turning into a new pandemic in humans, i can reveal.

In what would be a major change of UK policy, government officials and scientists are looking at overturning a ban on vaccinating tens of millions of birds as the H5N1 virus shows no sign of abating, the leading expert in avian influenza said.

In an interview with i, Professor Ian Brown, who is leading the UK’s fight against bird flu, also revealed his concerns over recent developments in the global outbreak.

These include signs that it could evolve to transmit between mammals; the spread of the virus into Central and South America – which he said puts at risk critically endangered species, including unique birds in the Galapagos Islands and penguins in Antarctica – and a cluster of human cases in Cambodia, which has led to the death of an 11-year-old girl.