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Business News/ Science / Health/  What is bird flu and how to avoid the risk?
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What is bird flu and how to avoid the risk?

There are no known cases of H5N8 in human beings; but necessary precautions are required while handling sick/dead birds and contaminated material during control operations

Delhi government on Monday issued a health advisory asking people to not consume uncooked chicken or eggs. Photo: APPremium
Delhi government on Monday issued a health advisory asking people to not consume uncooked chicken or eggs. Photo: AP

New Delhi: With over 50 deaths of ducks in the last one week due to the H5N8 avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, the Delhi government on Monday issued a health advisory asking people to not consume uncooked chicken or eggs. But the public at large is clueless with questions like are all birds affected by the virus and whether it can be communicated to humans from birds.

Here are some of the answers:

What is H5N8 avian influenza?

According to Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health, H5N8 avian influenza is a disease of birds, caused by Type “A" influenza viruses, which can affect several species of domestic poultry, such as chickens, turkeys, quails, guinea fowl, ducks, as well as pet birds, wild migratory birds and water fowl.

Past outbreaks

As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), widespread outbreaks of H5N8 were reported in Korea, Japan and China in 2014. It then reached Europe in late 2014 causing outbreaks in Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Russia and the UK.

How H5N8 is transmitted among birds?

Though wild birds can normally carry avian influenza viruses in their respiratory tracts they do not commonly get sick. The virus can spread among birds through direct contact with secretions from infected birds, contaminated feed, water, equipment, and human clothing and shoes. They can also transmit through movement of domestic live birds, people (through contaminated shoes and clothing), contaminated vehicles, equipment, feed and cages.

Can the virus transfer to humans?

There are no known cases of H5N8 in human beings. Risk to general public is very low. There is also no evidence that consumption of poultry meat or eggs could transmit the virus to humans. But necessary precautions are required while handling sick/dead birds and contaminated material during control and containment operations. It is considered safe to eat properly cooked poultry products.

On Monday, the Delhi government came out with health advisory on H5N8.

Control measures

Culling is usually undertaken to control the infection when it is detected in animals. Besides culling, safe disposal of all such culled animals and animal products is also important. The authorities also need to strictly enforce decontamination of infected premises and undertake quarantine of contaminated vehicles and personnel.

Food safety

It is considered safe to eat properly cooked chicken or eggs. But animals culled to control the spread of the virus should not be allowed to enter the food and feed chain as part of precautionary measures. As per the World Organisation for Animal Health, there is no evidence to suggest that the consumption of poultry meat or eggs could transmit the virus to humans.

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Published: 26 Oct 2016, 12:07 PM IST
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