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Should You Eat Chicken or Eggs Amid Bird Flu? Here’s What WHO Says

With more states confirming cases of Avian Influenza, aka bird flu, we ask experts — is it safe to consume chicken and eggs at this time?

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With 10 states, including Kerala, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh confirming cases of Avian Influenza or bird flu, the government is on high alert and the surveillance in poultry farms, live bird markets, and zoos have been increased.

Though the flu primarily affects birds, it can infect humans who come in close contact with the sick birds.

What is bird flu?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), bird flu is a type of influenza virus (H5N1 virus) which causes severe respiratory diseases in birds and can spread to humans. But it is difficult for this virus to transmit from one person to the next.

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With reports of poultry culling owing to the flu, and a major price drop in the price of poultry in some regions, concerns have been raised over the consumption of chicken and eggs at this time.

Is it safe to consume chicken and eggs at this time?

Yes, it is safe to consume poultry meat and eggs. According to the WHO official site, there is no epidemiological data which suggests that the disease can be transmitted to humans through cooked food (even if the bird was contaminated with the virus before cooking).

However, a few cases have been linked to consumption of undercooked contaminated poultry that had traces of blood.

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WHO mentions that it is safe to consume cooked poultry and eggs because the virus is heat sensitive and when the food reaches 70-degree celsius in all parts, the pathogens cannot survive.

The website states that a large number of human infections with the H5N1 virus have been linked to slaughter practises undertaken at home that leads to the handling of the dead birds before cooking. It suggests avoiding these practises completely and washing hands with soap and water after handling raw poultry meat.

Dr Raja Selvarajan, a General Physician at Corona Health Care clinic in Bengaluru also says that it is safe to consume poultry and eggs as long as it is thoroughly cooked.

He says, “As a precautionary measure, it is advisable to avoid cooking poultry and eggs in the microwave. Use only stove-top methods to ensure that the food is cooked to at least 100-degree celsius.”

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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