Bird flu: What WHO says about eating chicken, eggs

With cases of unusual poultry deaths being reported in some states — Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh — the Centre has warned about the outbreak of bird flu or Avian influenza, with H5N1 virus found in samples from dead birds.

H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes “highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza”, according to World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Avian influenza has been confirmed by the National Institute of Security Animal Diseases,” Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to the respective states.

The death of poultry birds due to bird flu raises concerns about whether it would be safe to consume chicken and eggs at this time. In fact, major drop in poultry prices is being reported in some regions.

What does WHO say?

WHO, however, says that it is “safe” to eat as long as it is “properly prepared and cooked”. Normal temperatures used for cooking (the food reaches 70 degrees Celsius in all parts) can kill the virus as it is sensitive to heat.

“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,” it adds.

As for the spread of the infection in humans, cases have mostly been linked to 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 advises.

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