Barely 3 months had gone by with India declaring itself Avian Influenza free (September 2020) when tragedy struck again.
After fighting a long and hard battle since 2006 against the H5N1 strain, India now has to combat the H5N8 strain of the same virus, although many other strains are omnipresent albeit dormant.
At 12 epicentres, in at least 4 Indian states, AI cases were recently reported. Thousands of birds have succumbed to the outbreak already. But what has been the cause?
Why has the outbreak affected birds? Who is to blame? What is this virus?
To answer some of your questions, let’s look at the situation closely and also examine whether poultry can be consumed or not while the spread of H5N8 continues.
What Is AI?
AI, that is, the Avian Influenza is also known as Bird Flu in layman’s terms. This virus is zoonotic, meaning that it can jump from a non-human animal to a human. The chances are low but not nil.
The current strain is fatal for birds but has no major effect on humans.
The major cause of AI has been recorded to be migratory birds. These birds carry the virus of contaminated poultry from one place to another. Several cases were reported in Europe in the past few weeks and thus, the virus has allegedly been contracted from the poultry reared therein.
How Is The Poultry Affected?
The AI A1 virus generally affects poultry birds like chicken and turkeys but all birds come under its radar alike. Typically affecting egg production, severe cases lead to death.
The outbreak is hard to control since migratory birds are behind the contamination and their migration cannot be stopped or controlled by any means.
Migration is triggered by a combination of changes in day length, lower temperatures, changes in food supplies, and genetic inclination. “We can’t stop it (movement of migratory birds); it will continue till February-end,” said Rakesh Prajapati, DC, Kangra.
Read More: What’s The Environmental Repercussion Of Culling Thousands Of Birds Amidst India’s Bird Flu?
Is Poultry Consumption Safe At This Stage?
India’s yearly consumption of poultry is approximately 4000 metric tonnes. The outbreak has not only affected our feed but has also left us in an economic scare since contaminated poultry can neither be sold nor reared.
When it comes to consuming poultry, while the outbreak is fully functional, it’s best to avoid it since we can’t be sure whether the poultry we have been provided with is contamination-free or not.
But the fact remains that the flu does not transmit to humans easily and proper vigil is being kept on any suspicious activity within the poultries as instructed by the Union Ministry of Fisheries & Animal Husbandry.
“Effective preventive measures should be ensured. Veterinarians and avian experts should analyze these incidents closely and keep ensuring arrangements to prevent the situation from aggravating”, said Ashok Gehlot, CM of Rajasthan.
Additionally, “People who are handling birds (culling them or handling meat) should be careful and take full precautions. If it does transmit to humans, influenza can be very severe…Human-to-human transmission is also not common but can happen. Eating properly cooked poultry is unlikely to transmit the infection. We have had several bird flu episodes in the past but managed to control them,” said Dr. Shobha Broor, former head of the department of microbiology at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
Many states have banned chicken import as a precautionary measure to restrict the strain from spreading further. “Bird flu symptoms were found in chickens in Kerala and other southern states. Therefore, we have decided that no chicken from these states will be allowed to enter Madhya Pradesh for the next 10 days”, said Shivraj Singh Chauhan, CM of Madhya Pradesh.
Likewise, some other states have also banned chicken import and consumption for safety reasons. Kerala has declared the flu as a “state disaster”. Culling of birds at a mass level has been initiated.
This has proven to be a huge loss of life as well as the economy, the government has promised to compensate the farmers (₹200 for chicken more than 2 months of age and ₹100 for birds less than 2 months of age).
What Is The Correct Way Of Poultry Consumption?
As per WHO’s report back in 2005, chicken and poultry are safe to consume if cooked properly. The most important factor here is to cook it at an internal temperature of 165F. It has to be cooked until the yolks and whites are firm.
This being said, it would be best if we altogether avoid the consumption of poultry at least until the outbreak ceases to exist. Once the poultry is declared free of AI (hopefully soon), we can resume our eating habits. Better safe than sorry.
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This post is tagged under: India, AI, Avian Influenza, Virus, Epicenters, Birds, Outbreak, Poultry, Bird Flu, Transmission, Fatal, Migratory Birds, Contamination, Consumption, Death, Egg Production, Cook, Meat, Crows, Herons, Turkeys, Chicken, Rearing, Farming, Culling, Compensation, Economy, Health Ministry, Loss, Union Ministry of Fisheries & Animal Husbandry, Is meat consumption safe amidst bird flu scare, bird flu precautions and measures