Two poultry workers in England have tested positive for bird flu, the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) has announced.

Both had recently worked on an infected poultry farm and have since tested negative. The two cases were originally found during routine screening and neither worker experienced symptoms of avian influenza.

Bird flu detected in humans can either be a “true infection” or can occur “after the nose and throat are contaminated when breathing in materials on the affected farm”, said Sky News.

It is “unclear” in one of the two latest cases whether he was contaminated after inhalation or whether he was truly infected, added the outlet.

There are no signs of human-to-human transmission and the risk to the general population remains very low, the UKHSA said. Nevertheless, added a spokesperson, “we know that viruses evolve all the time and we remain vigilant for any evidence of changing risk to the population”.

Since December 2021, there have been just 13 human cases reported around the world. All of the cases occurred when the individuals came into close contact with infected poultry.

Although there is “no suggestion” H5N1 can pass between humans, if the virus did evolve to transmit between people, asymptomatic cases “would be a serious concern”, said the i news site.

The spread of bird flu to mammals, including foxes and otters in Britain, has stoked fears that the virus could one day pass between humans in a pandemic like Covid-19.

Professor James Wood, head of veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge, told the BBC that the finding should lead to “greater attention” on asymptomatic infection and sampling.

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