Animal husbandry department issues advisory on consumption of meat and poultry
As panic around the outbreak of avian influenza (or bird flu) spreads, the district animal husbandry department on Monday issued a public advisory, assuring citizens that the consumption of poultry and eggs is safe. Officials said they have been receiving a large number of enquiries from concerned residents, who want to know whether the virus poses a risk to personal and public health, and what level of care needs to be taken.
“There is a lot of panic around the whole situation because Haryana has confirmed an outbreak of H5N8 avian influenza virus. People are not visiting parks and have stopped eating chicken. There are also a lot of rumors about how the virus can be transmitted to humans. In a meeting with state authorities this afternoon, we were told to widely disseminate that there is no health risk from eating chicken and eggs. It is completely safe,” said Dr Punita Gahlot, deputy director, animal husbandry department, Gurugram.
The particular H5N8 strain, officials said, is extremely lethal to birds but has no proven pathogenicity in humans. Officials also pointed out that unlike the H5N1 strain, which was found to be circulating in birds in Himachal Pradesh, H5N8 has no proven incidence of transmission from birds to humans. “We have to be careful of course. But this reluctance to eat poultry is going to disproportionally affect the poultry industry. In fact, if there is even the slightest risk with both strains of the virus, it is not to people who are eating the chicken but to those who are butchering it,” said a veterinary officer with the animal husbandry department, seeking anonymity.
Translated from Hindi, the animal husbandry department’s advisory states, “It is completely safe to eat poultry and poultry products in Gurugram. People should cook chicken thoroughly for 30 minutes at 70 degrees Celsius and no raw meat or eggs should be consumed this time. Our teams are on high alert. There are no unusual deaths or illnesses among birds at poultry farms in Gurugram. Citizens are advised not to panic or fall prey to rumors.”
“We will be publicising this message widely through the public relations office and through social media. In case a risk emerges for humans, people will be immediately notified,” Gahlot said. “There is a lot of concern over this outbreak because after Covid-19, people have become aware of the risk of zoonotic diseases. But Covid-19 is still the largest public health concern that we have to worry about, not bird flu,” she said.
As of Monday, a total of 34 commercial poultry farms and 24 backyard units having high-density of poultry have been put on round-the-clock surveillance, officials revealed. Meanwhile, the wildlife department has also extended its surveillance of wild birds to other green areas in the district, including Leisure Valley Park and Bhondsi. “Only in Tau Devi Lal Park, we have we seen an unusual number of bird deaths. In other places, it is business as usual. We will know once the samples have returned from Jalandhar,” said Rajesh Chahal, district wildlife inspector.