Safe To Eat Chicken or Eggs Now? Bird flu Enters India
Bird flu fear has hit many Indian states. Authorities in the affected region have started to cull thousands of birds. Will you eat chicken and eggs now? Does bird flu even spread to people? Explained bird flu concerns
In recent years, bird flu outbreaks have become recurrent and widespread around the world. India is now facing outbreaks of bird flu in countries like Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh as well as in other countries such as Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Hundreds of birds have also been killed and officials warn that birds may be transferred to humans. Culling birds is ongoing from Himachal Pradesh to Kerala in the affected areas.
What is flu?
It is influenza among birds, hence it is also known as avian influenza. Influenza Type A virus is the common cause of this infectious disease, affecting both the wild and poultry birds. This virus has many strains, most of which cause mild symptoms and influence the development of low eggs. However, some variants are lethal leading to loss of avian life. The current epidemic has proof of viral strains H5N1 and H8N1 that cause bird death.
How do outbreaks of flu spread amongst birds?
Certain wild bird varieties such as ducks and geese are known as natural reservoirs of influenza viruses of type A. Some birds are known to bear the variants of flu viruses without becoming ill or transmitting the disease through their droppings to other birds.
When flying, birds will relieve themselves, birds spread the flu virus globally. Bird flu outbreaks typically coincide with the seasons when a large number of migratory birds in an area.
This is the season when several migratory birds live in many Indian states. For example, Himachal Pradesh has seen hundreds of migratory birds dying this season of avian influenza.
What are the chances of human transmission of bird flu?
The avian flu virus spreads from aquatic to terrestrial birds, including poultry, and occasionally to dogs, cats, pigs, and horses. Bird flu is not a normal occurrence in birds and animals.
The first reported bird flu among humans occurred in Hong Kong in 1997. The outbreak occurred in Hong Kong from a live bird auction. The strain was H5N1 with a high mortality rate. Six out of 18 confirmed human cases were killed.
More than 50 countries have detected avian influenza since then. Six countries are considered endemic to H5N1 viruses in poultry as described by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It covers India. China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Egypt are other nations. Bird flu reappeared in 2003 on a larger scale and subsequently impacted several countries.
How can it spread to people?
It is not easy to transmit bird flu among humans. The transmission of bird flu from person to person is not usual. Many who work closely with contaminated chickens, whether dead or alive, and eat uncooked or half-cooked poultry items, including chicken meat, are susceptible.
The World Health Organization (WHO) makes it clear that there is no proof that the disease can spread by cooked foods. Like other viruses, the bird flu virus is also vulnerable to heat and dies at or above 60 degrees Celsius temperatures.
However, the scientists have cautioned because of a continuous mutation of viruses that a new version will risk turning a bird flu outbreak into a pandemic. The danger is seen to be more extreme following Covid-19, which started in a Chinese city in late 2019 and became a deadly pandemic in the first quarter of 2020.
How about anyone having bird flu?
Bird flu generally affects the intestinal region of animals, but it progresses into a respiratory disease when the disease spreads to humans. ARDS or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome may be induced, similar to one caused by Covid-19.
Early signs of human bird flu include fever, cough, and sore throat. An infected person will often complain of abdominal pain and diarrhea. Many of these signs are also seen in Covid-19.
There is, however, one big distinction, the H5N1 virus, as opposed to H1N1, caused by swine flu, or SARS-CoV-2, which induces Covid-19, its receptors deep within the human lungs. These two viruses have their receptors in the upper respiratory system, for example, human nasal cavities.
While bird flu medication is not unique to humans, antiviral drugs like oseltamivir are used to speed up recovery and boost survival chances. There is no bird flu safety vaccine yet.
In India, the advisory of the Union Ministry of Health states that poultry employees should use EPP and strictly adhere to hand hygiene.
Past bird flu cases in India
Bird flu outbreaks have occurred in India on many occasions since the first time in Gujarat and Maharashtra since 2006. Since then, at least 15 countries have reported cases of bird flu in India.
However, bird flu has not been reported among humans in India. But if anyone has signs and wishes to be certain, a patient’s throat swab is taken to confirm avian flu.
And finally, Can we eat chickens and eggs?
Yes, if you generally do that. A properly cooked egg or chicken meat or any poultry product is suitable for consumption.