Bird flu cases have been reported in some states in India as well. If you are wondering whether it is good to consume animal products during a bird flu outbreak, here’s everything you need to know.

It was recently reported that the H5N1 bird flu has infected cows and a person in the US. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed that the H5N1 avian flu has affected dairy cows in the United States. The virus has been found in pasteurised milk in many states. However, the Department of Agriculture and the FDA have also stated that the “US milk supply is safe because of the diversion or destruction of milk from sick cows.” Now, a massive bird flu has also hit some states in India. It has been reported that the bird flu has hit Jharkhand, Kerala and a warning has been issued in the bordering areas of Karnataka. This has led to a rise in concerns and panic among people thinking if it is safe to eat chicken and dairy products such as milk and eggs.

Health Shots asked an Infectious Disease Specialist and Physician Dr Charu Dutt Arora if it is safe for people to have dairy products and chicken.

What is H5N1 bird flu?

H5N1 is a subtype of the influenza A virus, commonly known as avian influenza or bird flu. It primarily affects birds but can also infect humans and other animals. There are multiple strains of H5N1 virus, some of which are highly pathogenic, meaning they can cause severe illness and high mortality rates in infected birds. In humans, H5N1 infection is rare but can be severe and even fatal. Most cases have occurred in people who have had close contact with infected birds or contaminated surfaces.

Also Read: H5N1 bird flu spreads to humans, raises alarm! Know everything about the infection

bird flu
H5N1 bird flu has now entered India. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

Can humans get infected?

H5N1 bird flu, which is the most common type of avian influenza first affected humans in 1997 in Hong Kong. As per the data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 887 cases of H5N1 cases have been registered between 2003 and 2004, of which 462 people died.

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The recent outbreak began in the US and affected dairy cows and one person who was in close contact with cows, was found to be infected with the virus. So, yes human beings can get infected with bird flu if they come in close contact with the infected bird (dead or alive) or a contaminated surface.

Human-to-human transmission of H5N1 is limited, but there is concern that the virus could mutate to become more easily transmissible among humans, potentially leading to a pandemic. Efforts to monitor and control H5N1 outbreaks in birds, as well as research into vaccines and antiviral treatments, are ongoing to reduce the risk to both animal and human health.

Can you eat eggs during a bird flu outbreak?

Yes, you can eat eggs when it comes from a trusted source. Dr Dutta explains that it is safe to consume eggs when purchased from a retail market since packaging and storage processes are safe. When bought from trusted sources, the risk of contamination is low. You can cook them at 175 Fahrenheit (both the yellow and white part of the egg). It will help you get rid of all bacterial and viral contaminants that may increase the risk of infection. Hence, consuming cooked eggs is not known to cause any transmission.

Can you eat chicken during a bird flu outbreak?

If you are worried that you might get bird flu if you eat chicken, cook it at 165 Fahrenheit which will remove all bacteria and viruses, making it safe. Special precautions should be taken while handling and storing raw chicken so that there is no cross-contamination with other food items, advises the expert.

Also Read: Is it safe to eat chicken during bird flu?

Can you have milk during a bird flu outbreak?

Although eggs and chicken can be cooked to make them safe, milk is generally consumed directly from the fridge. Make sure you buy only pasteurised milk. The process of pasteurisation (heating at very high temperatures) kills all pathogens including any lingering bird flu virus. One must not buy raw unpasteurised milk from small sellers or directly from farms. That milk can have many food poisoning-causing pathogens. Proper handling and storage processes should be followed.

You can drink milk during a bird flu outbreak. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

How is H5N1 bird flu treated?

The doctor will decide on the best course of action after doing a comprehensive test known as influenza A/H5 (Asian lineage) virus real-time RT-PCR primer and probe set. Antiviral medications like zanamivir and oseltamivir can generally help treat the condition and lessen its severity. However, the medicine needs to be taken 48 hours after the symptoms start.

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