Is it safe to eat chicken during bird flu?

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Bird flu is a viral infection that mostly affects birds, but human cases have also been reported. So, should you eat chicken during bird flu?

Bird flu or avian influenza or H5N1 is a disease that primarily affects birds, but there have been few cases of human infection too. It is basically spread when a person comes in close contact with an infected bird. So, it is best not to touch infected birds (dead or alive) or come in contact with their droppings. Amid the bird flu outbreak, people also start having doubts about the safety of eating chicken and eggs. Can you eat half-boiled eggs or poached ones? Read on to know if you should eat eggs and chicken during bird flu.

What is bird flu?

Bird flu, also known as avian influenza, is a contagious viral infection that is known for affecting birds. However, certain strains of bird flu viruses can also infect humans and other animals, leading to serious illness or even death in some cases, says pulmonologist Dr Navneet Sood.

Bird flu is caused by influenza A viruses that naturally occur in wild birds. These viruses can spread to domestic poultry such as chickens, ducks, and turkeys, either through direct contact with infected birds or through contaminated surfaces such as cages or equipment.

Cook chicken well amid bird flu outbreak. Image courtesy: Freepik

Humans can also contract bird flu through close contact with infected birds or through exposure to contaminated environments.

What are the symptoms of bird flu in humans?

In most human cases, highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N1) and A(H5N6) viruses and avian influenza A (H7N9) virus have been responsible, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some of the symptoms of bird flu in humans:

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  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Respiratory difficulties

In severe cases, the flu can also lead to pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, organ failure, and death.

The disease, which was first reported in Vietnam in 2003, has been responsible for human outbreaks and deaths in Asia, Europe, Africa and Middle East. There have been at least 356 deaths due to bird flu, as per the World Health Organization.

Eating chicken during bird flu

It is generally safe to eat properly cooked chicken during a bird flu outbreak, says Dr Sood. When you cook chicken and eggs, make sure the internal temperature is 165 degree Fahrenheit, as this can kill bacteria and viruses, including bird flu viruses, as per the CDC.

But you should separate raw chicken from cooked foods and foods that you will not be using for cooking. Cook all chicken and its products (including eggs) all the way before eating. Make sure to store raw chicken in a separate container or bag to prevent juices or fluids from dripping onto other foods.

You should also practice good hygiene to prevent cross-contamination with other foods. This includes washing hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw chicken and cleaning surfaces and utensils that come into contact with raw chicken.

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Safety of consuming eggs during bird flu

The safety of eating eggs during a bird flu outbreak also depends on how you handle and cook them. Cooking eggs until both the yolk and white are firm ensures that any potential contamination with the bird flu virus is eliminated. Avoid eating raw or undercooked eggs, including those with runny yolks, as they may contain harmful bacteria or viruses, says Dr Sood.

Omelette on a plate
Don’t eat eggs with a runny yolk during bird flu. Image courtesy: Freepik

Safe ways to cook eggs and chicken during bird flu

Looking for simple and safe ways to cook eggs and chicken amid concerns about bird flu? Check out these two recipes!

Vegetable Omelette

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup diced bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

  • In a bowl, whisk the eggs together with salt and pepper until well combined then set it aside.
  • Heat olive in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, add diced bell peppers and onions, and sauté them for until they become soft.
  • Add chopped spinach to the skillet and cook for another 1 or 2 minutes.
  • Pour the whisked eggs over the sautéed vegetables in the skillet then allow the eggs to set for a few seconds.
  • Using a spatula, gently lift the edges of the omelette and tilt the skillet to let the uncooked eggs flow to the bottom.
  • Continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes until the bottom is set and the top is slightly runny.
  • Fold the omelette in half using the spatula. Cook for another 1 or 2 minutes until the eggs are fully cooked and the omelette is golden brown on the outside.

Slide the vegetable omelette onto a plate. Enjoy it hot with a side of toast or salad, suggests nutritionist Abhilasha V.

Baked lemon herb chicken

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

Method

  • In a bowl, combine olive oil, minced garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, dried thyme, dried rosemary, salt, and pepper.
  • Pour the marinade over chicken breasts and ensure all the pieces are coated evenly. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degree Fahrenheit or 200 degree Celsius.
  • Put the marinated chicken breasts on a baking dish.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165 degree Fahrenheit or 75 degree Celsius, making it safe for consumption during bird flu.
  • Remove the chicken from the oven then garnish with parsley before serving.

You can have it with your roasted vegetables, rice, or salad.

These recipes offer safe methods of cooking eggs and chicken by ensuring proper cooking temperatures. Enjoy these dishes as part of a balanced meal with nutritious sides without worrying about bird flu.

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