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Speaking on ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme Sir David King said bird flu was not among the human population.
He said the government was preparing for it as a "very low possibility".
He added: "We have got a virus in the bird population that has gone on since 1996, and in Asia particularly there has been a lot of contact between human beings and the birds that have got that virus."
Despite that, a human virus had not developed, he said.
Sir David said bird flu was "absolutely not" present among poultry, and said he was "fairly optimistic" it was absent in wild birds.
He stressed that so far one dead bird had been washed ashore with H5N1, which may have come from a previously infected part of Europe.