Bird Flu: Can you eat chicken and eggs amidst the avian influenza scare?
Bird Flu: Can you eat chicken and eggs amidst the avian influenza scare?

Even as we are battling the COVID-19 pandemic along with its new strain, avian influenza has made a come back in at least in seven Indian states.

The Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying in a release said that the states which have so far reported cases of avian influenza include Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.

While test reports of unusual death of birds received from Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Delhi are awaited, the ministry said on Saturday.

With the anxiety of bird flu or avian influenza spreading fast, the sale of eggs and chickens have dropped in the national capital.

"The sale of eggs has dropped from 200-300 trays per day to just 100-150 per day in last two days as the scare of bird flu has increased," said Vinod, an egg dealer adding that the sale was hit by up to 50 per cent.

Mohammad Salim, General Secretary of Gazipur Murga Mandi on bird flu scare said that they have formed a 5-6 member committee that surveys the market and checks the quality of poultry at different shops.

The dilemma over eating chicken amidst this avian flu scare must have taken over your mind. Thus we have collated a list of guidelines issued by the government and expert opinion regarding the matter.

The Central government has issued an advisory to the affected States in a bid to avoid further spread of the disease.

In its advisory, Centre has asked states to be prepared for any eventuality of avian influenza.

While explaining under the guidelines related to the consumption of poultry, the release has asked Chief secretaries/ administrators to arrange to issue appropriate advisories to quell consumer reactions, affected by rumours and increase awareness regarding safety of poultry or poultry products that are safe for consumption following boiling/ cooking procedures.

Can you get bird flu by eating chicken?

Contrary to what some people think that the bird flu virus, also known as Avian influenza, is spread to humans via consumption of cooked poultry products, health experts on Sunday stressed that it usually does not infect people as the virus is heat-labile (degraded and killed when subjected to heat).

Avian influenza refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species.

What precautions should be taken while buying and eating chicken?

According to the World Health organisation (WHO), cooking of poultry (e.g. chicken, ducks and geese) at or above 70 degree Celsius so that absolutely no meat remains raw and red, is a safe measure to kill the virus in areas with outbreaks in poultry.

Richa Sareen, consultant (pulmonology) at Fortis Vasant Kunj in New Delhi, said the virus is heat-labile and it gets killed with cooking temperatures.

"At this time, people should eat fully cooked chicken and eggs and not raw or partially cooked ones. One should avoid going to open markets that sell poultry as they are the focal point of the spread," Sareen told IANS.

What preactions sould be taken by people who are in the poultry business?

"People who handle poultry should take special precautions. They should wear PPE, gloves and masks while handling birds and should practice frequent hand washing," she added.

Although the virus causing bird flu usually does not infect people, rare cases of human infection with these viruses have been reported, especially in individuals working with infected domestic birds.

"The possible cause of infections in humans is when they come in contact with birds with the viruses and enough viruses get into a person's eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled through the excretions of birds," said Kunal Kothari, Senior Physician, Internal Medicine, SMS Medical College in Jaipur.

(With inputs from agencies)

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