Chicken safe to eat, says Delhi govt as it ups precautions amid bird flu scare
A less virulent avian influenza strain has struck birds in the national capital, a lab report confirmed on Friday, prompting the city government to declare that the virus is less harmful to humans.delhi Updated: Oct 22, 2016 11:17 IST
A less virulent avian influenza strain has struck birds in the national capital, a lab report confirmed on Friday, prompting the city government to declare that the virus is less harmful to humans.
The National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal found the H5N8 virus in three of the eight samples from Delhi. These samples from dead birds were sent to Bhopal lab for advanced tests.
“Experts say the H5N8 avian influenza virus detected in dead birds in the zoo is not very harmful to humans,” said development minister Gopal Rai, even as six more ducks were found dead in Hauz Khas, taking the toll to 29.
The government has instructed the city’s chicken wholesale markets and poultry farms to inform if they found dead birds and also keep their area clean. But chicken is safe to eat, Rai said.
The H5N8 strain has never been reported in India before. The previous recorded strain is the H5N1 virus, which could transmit to humans when people come in contact with sick birds.
But it’s too early to rule out H5N1 as lab report of 50 samples from birds in the zoo, sanctuaries and poultry markets are awaited. The results are expected on Monday evening.
“The H5N8 strain has been detected in India for the first time, we do not have any research to say whether it mild or deadly. We have to go with the assumption that the virus is deadly because the birds died, but further lab tests have to scientifically establish that,” a scientist working at the Bhopal lab said.
The same lab has confirmed H5N1 as the cause of death of three painted storks at Gwalior zoo in Madhya Pradesh on Friday evening.
The H5N8 strain can be both mild and deadly in birds, but the past few outbreaks in Asia and Europe have been from the “highly pathogenic” strain.
“This year, the H5N8 strain infected a handful of humans in China and Vietnam, causing mild flu symptoms. Flu viruses mutate and this is the flu season, there’s always the danger of H5N8 re-combining with other viruses to become more infective or deadly for human,” said a microbiologist at the National Centre for Disease Control, who did not want to be named.
The expert suggested caution — a human-animal barrier – and use of protective gear in culling birds and handling sick and dead birds because it is too early to confirm the infection will manifest in humans.
The first cases in the city was confirmed earlier this week after samples taken from dead birds at the zoo tested positive for the contagious disease.
The flu scare forced authorities to close a sprawling park — popularly called Deer Park — on Thursday after the zoo was shut down for the public two days before.