As Bird flu has been reported in different parts of India, including Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Kerala. There are reports of thousands of birds dead due to Avian Influenza in the country. Leading to panic in many people whether they should consume chicken and eggs.

Since the bird flu has evoked fear amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic, people aren't sure what precautions should be taken as many have been left immunocompromised and are still recovering.

Bird Flu

To avoid egg or not to, several are in a dilemma amid reports of influenza. Here's all you need to know about bird flu, what to eat and what to avoid amid bird flu: 

What is bird flu/Avian Influenza?

Bird flu or Avian influenza is a viral infection found mostly in birds. Irrespective of wild and farmed organically or inorganically it can affect any poultry bird. The current outbreak has H5N1 strains of virus causing the death of birds in India.

It is less likely that avian influenza spreads from human to human but most often people who get bird flu have close contacts with infected birds or with surfaces that have been contaminated by the birds' saliva, mucous, or droppings. It may be possible to catch bird flu by eating poultry or eggs that are not well cooked.

Should you avoid having poultry during bird flu?

We must follow, safe hygiene practices before procuring and cooking poultry and products. Prefer organic over inorganic products.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization also recommends that one of the best ways to minimize your risk of infection is by keeping infected birds away from the food chain at all levels- that ensures you procure your products from genuine, trusted sources.

Refrain from eating poultry and eggs from an outside and unknown source. Try to eat home-cooked food during this time. Prefer omelette or hard-boiled eggs over poached or sunny side up as this will take longer exposure in heating and kill the virus

How often shall we eat eggs?

Eggs best avoided around the time of influenza should be preferred. They can be sourced from local organic farms and should be well cooked at home. It is evident that the virus is killed above 70 degree Celsius of heat. So, well-cooked eggs at home can be eaten.

Which poultry birds are safe to eat?

When it is influenza it affects all poultry birds including duck, hen, pigeons or alike. Hence, it is best to avoid them completely or procure organic chickens from local farms which follow safety protocols. All poultry birds should be cooked thoroughly before consumption. If you eat outside home, check for quality check and order well-cooked poultry.

What are the symptoms of bird flu?

Symptoms of bird flu are similar to a viral infection, these symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough and cold
  • Sore throat
  • Stomach upset or issues with GI tract
  • Runny
  • Muscle
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Eye redness and difficulty in breathing.

In severe cases, it can also lead to fatality. People with a weak immune system, pregnant ladies and adults above 65 must avoid it.

What are the different strains of the avian flu virus?

There are 2 strains of the virus. The current strain of the infection, H5N1, considered being the most common and lethal one which can turn into a pandemic if not controlled. There are many other subtypes of bird flu virus like H1N1, H5N1 and so on.

Does avian influenza spread to humans?

There is no clear evidence that influenza can spread to humans. But workers of poultry farms are high risk of infection. Cases of the spread of the H5N1 virus was reported. In poultry farms, the species can jump from infected birds to humans and infect them. People who come in close proximity to infected birds are most vulnerable to the spread of the infection.

What are other alternatives to poultry for proteins?

boiled eggs

Fish is a good alternative to Poultry. There is no such evidence that avian influenza infects fishes. Both fresh water and deep-sea fish can be good alternatives.

Nuts and edible seeds like almonds, almond meal or 45 gm nuts, roasted gram can be swapped instead of chicken and eggs for snacks.

Lentils and Pulses are also good alternatives along with protein-rich grains like amaranth, quinoa. People often ask me what is a substitute for eggs and I say "FLAXEGGS"

What is the recipe for "flax eggs"?

  • Grind flaxseed in the grinder.
  • Take 1 tablespoon flaxseed powder.
  • Soak them in 2.5 tablespoons water until it forms a gel.
  • Similarly, you can use it by using chia seeds.
  • Use 1 tablespoon flax meal for 1 egg in the recipe.
  • You can make French toast, bake muffins, use them in cookies, burger patties, biscuits etc.

If we workout and consume eggs, what are other options for post and pre-workout?

Ragi malt, sattu water, soy milk, almonds, vegan protein powders, chia seeds, homemade protein balls, whey protein from dairy and dairy products, cottage cheese, vegan protein powders, homemade high protein muffins, well-cooked eggs, edamame, soy and soy products, nut mix or trail mix to name a few

For how long should we avoid eating poultry?

Until the avian influenza outbreak ends, one must avoid poultry where possible. If you choose to consume poultry, you must ensure you follow all hygiene practices and consume well-cooked poultry and eggs.

What are other healthy alternatives for non-vegetarians?

Fish, lean cut of lambs and mutton, all varieties of lentils, pulses, soy and soy products and nuts and edible seeds are some healthy protein alternatives.

Are there any high risks group of people who should avoid eating poultry and eggs?

People who are immune-compromised, recovery from COVID-19 infections, pregnant and lactating mother, elders above 65 years and beyond should avoid it for some period of time.

(About the author: This is a guest article by Swati Bathwal, an accredited practising Dietitian Nutritionist and Public Health Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, an accredited Anthropometrist and a registered Yoga Teacher.)