A new craze swept over Filipinos earlier this month. It’s not what you are thinking — not a new Korean drama nor a new dance move. It’s none other than the infamous bird flu, known to geeks as avian influenza.
While the outbreak is still limited to poultry farms in San Luis, Pampanga, Filipinos have been in panic since the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health gave their confirmations. San Luis has also been put under quarantine since then.
It’s definitely a big bad news for those whose business involves fowls. If you are an animal lover, hold on to your chair because the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) is dead set to exterminate hundreds of thousands of chickens in San Luis. So sad.
At the end of the day, what really is avian flu? Here are five must-know-facts about Philippines’ latest craze:
1. You need to know more about bird flu
Since the outbreak in San Luis, Pampanga, Filipinos have almost been in a state of panic. Before giving in to public hysteria, you better do some research about bird flu.
The dreaded virus is not similar to what Filipinos call trangkaso. What you don’t probably know is, there are various subtypes of this flu living inside birds!
The most common form of bird flu is H5N1, first discovered in 1997. Known for its fatality rate, H5N1 is categorized as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
Birds living in wetlands have a higher susceptibility than those living in farms. In case of a virus invasion among farms, it pays to inspect chickens before consuming them. A mass supplier of a leading roasted chicken franchise in the Philippines said that bird flu infected chickens have dark marks on their skins. Yuck!
2. How you can be (or not be) infected by bird flu
Let’s do away with medical jargons. You can only be infected by bird flu if you have prolonged or intense exposure to infected fowls. Dead but previously infected fowls can also transmit the flu.
WHO (sorry for the pun) else can list the risk factors but the World Health Organization? WHO says slaughtering, dressing, and handling poultry for breeding or consumption are most high-risk activities for bird flu contamination.
Needless to say, avoid all sorts of fluids from infected fowls — which includes their feces. Another yuck!
These are just SOME of the high-risk activities. Other than these, bird flu can still be transmitted through other modes, so better be safe.
3. You should always be on the watch
If you are not doing any of the high-risk activities mentioned in #2, you are potentially safe from the virus.
However, this does not mean that humans are totally insulated from bird flu.
In March 2013, the Asian lineage avian influenza (Asian H7N9) first infected people in China. A recent study says that one strain of H7N9 can easily spread through the air. Such is a proof that bird flu is continuously evolving.
Another caution: At this point in time, bird flu cannot spread through human-to-human transmission. Still, a bird flu expert in Memphis, Tennessee says H7N9 can possibly undergo genetic mutations that will enable it to transfer from one human host to another.
4. But you can still eat chickens!
Enough for the ban news. For all you know, eating infected poultry cannot really make you sick, provided that the food is properly cooked. Health experts agreed that a meat is considered safe if it is cooked in a temperature of 165°F.
5. There’s a solution to bird flu
We’re not wishing anyone ill, but should a person get infected by bird flu, here are the steps he should take to get back to health.
Of course, he should undergo a series of tests to confirm if he’s really ill with bird flu. The tests include chest X-ray, detection of abnormal breath sounds, white blood cell differential, and other examinations on heart, kidney, and liver functions.
Once the infection has been confirmed, the ill person should quarantined to avoid the possibility of infecting others (though the chance is very minimal, as mentioned in #3).
While in quarantine, doctors can prescribe antiviral medicines such as oseltamivir or zanamivir, but these medicines should be administered within 48 hours.
That’s all dude. After all has been said and done, the best way to protect yourself is to be cautious in the first place. When handling poultry these days, better wear a set of personal protective equipment.
And remember: If you can’t really resist the pull of an oil-dripping fried chicken wing, be sure to cook it well.