Debunking Common Myths Surrounding Bird Flu

A Bird Flu outbreak is probably one of the last things meat eaters would like to hear, but what really entails an epidemic of this sort? And should it impact your consumption of poultry?

Well, to begin with, let’s understand what the source of Bird Flu or formally known as the Avian influenza is. Wild birds like gulls, terns and shorebirds or waterfowl such as ducks, geese and swans are known to be common reservoirs of the avian virus strain, but what about domesticated birds? Direct contact with infected waterfowl or other infected poultry, or through contact with surfaces that have been contaminated with the viruses are usually sources through which the virus can infect birds on a poultry farm. This can be minimized by administering strict biosecurity measures which will eliminate contamination and the spread of diseases.
Let us have a look at a few common myths surrounding Bird Flu:

Myth #1- You should avoid eating chicken and other poultry during a bird flu outbreak!
Without following necessary hygiene measures it is possible to contract the virus through poultry, which is why there have been cases in the past. However, The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in a joint statement established that properly cooked poultry is entirely safe to eat. It all particularly comes down to the steps you personally take to ensure that the meat or poultry you are consuming is thoroughly cleaned before the cooking process.

Myth # 2- Avian flu is spread through consumption of poultry products.
The avian flu can be found commonly in the intestines of wild birds, however for poultry birds that are reared and domesticated in sterilized and controlled environments ,there is no proof that suggests the above unless an infected bird comes into contact or enters the premises of the farm. Even so, a bird infected with the Avian virus , if cooked at the optimal temperature, can kill microscopic organisms containing the virus and make it completely safe to eat.

Myth #3- Early outbreaks of Bird flu are caused due to commercial poultry farming.
Studies and research suggests that the H5N1 virus is more commonly found amongst waterfowls and wild migratory birds since they are more susceptible to infection and diseases. Stringent biosafety campaigns and measures however have controlled the spread of the disease amongst commercially reared birds to a great extent which is why birds that are products of commercial poultry farming are safer to eat, given that necessary measures are put in place to rear them in a hostile environment.

Myth #4- Avian flu can easily be transmitted to human beings.
Like any other virus, the H5N1 virus strain also looks for suitable hosts to latch on to, human beings can be a viable host if they come into contact with an infected bird’s feces, droplets of moisture and other secretions. So, say you’re on a trip in the jungle and a wild bird that is carrying the virus either drops its feces on you or lands on any of your possessions, the chances of you contracting the virus are way higher in this case than cooking thoroughly cooked chicken bought from a poultry farm.

Now that we’ve revisited all these common myths, it is vital to understand that since there is no vaccine yet for the virus, you must ensure that hygiene and clean cooking practices are followed heavily at all times, irrespective of an outbreak. Even with the recent pandemic in place, it is evident that viruses are plenty, vaccines few or even none which is why health and hygiene needs to be at the top of everyone’s priority lists. That being said, myths and false facts should be corrected to avoid unnecessary presumptions since flow of wrong information can impact the mindset of millions. Recheck facts and stay aware.

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