In the past month, lakhs of birds have tested positive for bird flu with cases in 10 states across the country. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), H5N1 is a type of influenza that causes a highly infectious and severe respiratory disease in birds called avian. Here are a few questions people have been asking since the first cases of bird flu came into light:
Can bird flu transmit to humans? And if so, how does that happen?
Doctors have said that the risk of human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 virus that causes the bird flu, is very rare. It only ever happens if one works in proximity with the infected species of birds, having direct contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces (saliva, nasal secretions, and feces).
People who work closely with poultry are at high risk of getting the infection. Otherwise, human to human transmission of the H5N1 virus is very rare. Hence there is no need to panic.
- Dr Harshal R. Salve, Associate Professor at Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS
You should also wear a mask and frequently wash your hands if you're dealing with birds and poultry.
Is it safe to eat chicken, duck and eggs?
As a standard precaution, WHO recommends that poultry, poultry products, and wild game birds should always be prepared following good hygienic practices and that poultry meat should be properly cooked.
In addition to this, AIIMS also gave specific instructions about how long and at what temperature the meat must be cooked at - 70ºC temperature for 30 minutes.
It must be emphasised that poultry meat cooked at more than 70ºC temperature for 30 minutes inactivates the virus, and it is absolutely safe to consume properly cooked poultry meat and eggs.
What precautions can be taken while handling chicken and eggs?
AIIMS suggests that after handling poultry and eggs, one should wash hands and other exposed parts with soap and water. In addition to this, if chicken droppings are spotted on the eggs, then it is likely that the eggs were laid several hours ago. In that case, the likelihood of infection is low, even if the droppings were carrying the avian flu virus. The avian flu virus is destroyed by drying, and exposure to sunlight for a few hours.
In addition to this, wash the meat with RO warm water or boiled water and avoid washing it under a tap as it splashes back. Also, use different utensils for raw meat and cooked meat, while handling poultry.
If you are visiting a butcher shop, it is best to cary your own box to collect the meat - preferably a steel container and not a plastic bag. Wash the chicken immediately once you get home. However, experts do recommend avoiding open meat markets altogether as they are the hub of the virus.
Stay safe and make sure to cook your meat well before consuming.