While India is still dealing with managing it’s COVID 19 outbreak, reports of the bird flu are being broadcasted in various states of India. Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat and Kerala have so far confirmed the outbreak. In response to this, the Centre has issued an advisory to its citizens and even set up a committee to monitor the situation and try and control the spread.
What is the bird flu and how does it spread?
Avian influenza or the bird flu is a type A influenza virus (H5N1) that is typically found to affect wild and poultry birds. This virus is known to have several strains with most of them causing mild symptoms and low egg production while other strains could be more lethal and leading to the loss of avian lives. There has been evidence that the current outbreak contains strains of H5N1 and H8N1 strains of virus causing the death of birds.
Research has shown that some wild birds like duck and geese naturally contain the Influenza Type-A virus. These kinds of birds carry the variants of the flu virus without being sick and showing any symptoms and may spread it to other birds through their droppings. While bird flu can spread through animal excretions, migratory patterns of a bird are also known to be a major cause. It is also a known fact that bird flu season tends to break out when there are a large number of migratory birds in a particular region. Coincidently this season leads to many states becoming the home to a large number of migratory birds, for instance, Himachal Pradesh has seen a large influx of migratory birds who contain this strain of influenza.
Can bird flu transmit to humans?
This flu is known to be spread from aquatic varieties to terrestrial birds including poultry and from them sometimes to animals such as dogs, cats, pigs and horses. While bird to human transmission is rare, it is not unheard of. According to the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6 countries are known to be vulnerable to the H5N1 virus in poultry. India, China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Egypt and Indonesia have been severely affected by this flu.
While this flu affects the gut area in birds, it becomes a respiratory tract illness and even causes ARDS or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome in humans. Some early symptoms of this flu in humans could be fever, cough and sore throat and sometimes, an infected person may complain of abdominal pain and suffer diarrhoea. Since these symptoms are also COVID 19 symptoms, this flu is now considered to be very dangerous.
Although this influenza has taken the lives of people in the past, the transmission of this flu from bird to human is not easy. Those who work in close contacts with infected birds, dead or alive, and eat uncooked or half-cooked poultry products including chicken meat are severely at risk. So, amid a bird flu outbreak, is there a safe to consume eggs or chicken?
WHO’s recommendation while eating eggs and chicken amid the bird flu outbreak
While you may have considered to consume products like egg and chicken during a bird flu outbreak, WHO has certain recommendations in place that outline a safe way for us to consume them. WHO states that it is completely safe to eat eggs and chicken as long as it is ‘properly and thoroughly cooked and prepared’ . According to experts, cooking temperatures of about 70 degree Celsius while preparing the food will make sure to kill any sort of virus, if present, in the food products. Since the virus is heat sensitive, the organisation further recommends preparing chicken, egg etc following complete hygiene practice.
A large number of human infections with the H5N1 virus have been linked to the home slaughter and subsequent handling of diseased or dead birds prior to cooking. These practices represent the highest risk of human infection and are the most important to avoid," WHO stated.
Animal husbandry, fisheries and dairy minister Giriraj Singh recently tweeted in Hindi ‘There are death reports of wild and migratory birds due to bird flu at some places. There is no need to panic. It is advised to fully cook meat and eggs before eating. States have been informed and are being provided with the necessary help and support.’
So, if you're craving a delicious egg or chicken dish at such a time, it is best to make sure to thoroughly cook them to avoid any unwanted diseases.