Luczon: Don’t panic, be cautious against bird flu

Nef Luczon

THE revelation last week about a bird flu, or avian influenza, outbreak in Pampanga’s poultry farms raised concerns on whether it is safe to consume poultry products like chicken and ducks.

The “Filipino” in us tends to generalize, if not speculate, which leads to panic.

In 2011, the Department of Health in Northern Mindanao region activated a task force to monitor and enact preventive measures against the spread of H5N1, after prevalent cases were reported in neighboring countries like Vietnam and Indonesia.

Expect also similar preparations are being made as of this moment, considering that this is the first bird flu outbreak in the country.

However, let us help disseminate proper information about the virus so we would lessen the cause of panic and misinformation. At least in our own way, we could help the authorities control or prevent the rise of bird flu cases.

Based on reports so far, the infected areas are still within Pampanga, particularly in San Luis.

Reports coming from Agriculture secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol that as early as April, poultry animals have shown signs of bird flu, and the numbers spiked up last July.

Now, within one to seven-kilometer radius around Pampanga, around 200 to 500 thousand poultry - chicken, ducks, and quails, among others - are to be culled (as to the methods, it is up to animal welfare activists to look out to).

But should we stop eating poultry meat and eggs? According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is safe to consume them as long as it is properly cooked. Meat should be cooked evenly at an internal temperature of at least 73.9 degrees Celsius or 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

So far, there are no cases of human infection reported by DOH. However, the agency advised, for the meantime, against getting close to poultry animals.

To make it clear, the only time H5N1 virus infects humans is when humans get in contact with poultry animals. This can be through fluid or a rare case of air when humans breathe in the dusty particles of an infected poultry animal.

If you have heard stories of humans with bird flu infecting other humans, please correct them that it is not true because, again, it is bird-to-human means of viral infection.

WHO and CDC already listed typical signs and symptoms if a person gets in contact with bird flu, and shares close similarities with a typical fever. These include: cough, diarrhea, respiratory difficulties, fever with body temperature over 100.4°F (38°C).

It is also possible to experience headache, muscle aches, malaise, runny nose, and sore throat. It is best still that you consult with a medical doctor in order to be diagnosed and treated properly.

If there is a reason to avoid chicken or any poultry products for the mean time, this is because some people would prefer to be safe than sorry, but always be sensitive also in explaining these things as not to cause paranoia.