You hear the news on the television or it might be the dailies that break the news to you, and once more you strike chicken off the options for work lunch outside and you won’t bring home any chicken to cook. The news of the bird flu generates an immediate response, but are we well informed about the flu or are we making rash decisions based on skepticism. Find out some basic precautions that you can take while cooking so that you can eat chicken without fear of the flu.

The news of ‘the bird flu threat’ plagues us every now and then. This is particularly a horrid nightmare for the poultry entrepreneurs. The rampant skepticism eschewed of information is problematic to say the least. The problem, I feel, is with the information sharing from the government. Have we really bothered to find out the details of how bird flu spreads before we react to information about the flu in some poultry farm in the valley with the obvious “no chicken till the rumors blow away”? As professional chefs, hygiene training is obviously mandatory, which ensures we know the details of diseases like swine flu, the Avian flu, or the mad cow disease. It is essential that the public at large understands the viruses that affect the food they eat and have unambiguous information on how to tackle the same. Misinformation affects a variety of enterprises and livelihoods, it is essential that we understand what bird flu is before we take misinformed decisions that can cause ripples in the economy as a whole.

So how does bird flu spread?
Migrating birds, like ducks, geese, and swans, can carry and spread the virus to other birds — often across country borders. Some of these migratory birds don’t seem to get sick from bird flu, but domesticated birds like chicken and turkey can die from it.

A bird can get bird flu from another bird by coming into close contact with its infected feces, secretions, or saliva. Birds can also get sick if they come into contact with dirt, cages, or any surfaces that have been contaminated by sick birds. That’s why researchers think live bird markets, where birds are kept in close quarters, are places where the virus spreads quickly.
People catch bird flu by close contact with birds or bird droppings. Despite the rampant fears, research has made it clear that if the meat is cooked thoroughly, you do not have to worry about catching the flu from eating chicken.

Precaution is better than cure
If you reside near a place where the outbreak rate is high then stay away from the live poultry market and poultry farms. You don’t have to be afraid as long as you take some basic precautions. Never consume undercooked poultry, take special care when you eat out.

When cooking at home, take some preventive measures.

Make sure you do not touch your chicken when you buy it.

Clean it well under running water when you bring it home. Wash your hands properly once you handle the chicken.

Clean your chopping board and other equipments as well. Once you clear, make sure you wash your hands before you touch anything. Washing your hands repetitively may be tedious but make the effort as it is worth avoiding the flu.

Make sure you cook the chicken at temperatures above 70 degree Celsius, so preferably use methods like baking, stewing, brazing or grilling.

Be absolutely certain that your chicken is not undercooked. If you are not using boneless chicken, stick a tooth pick into the meat near the chicken to test its tenderness.

Pay special attention to chicken wings as the meat attached to bones may not be cooked to perfection.

Stick to chicken breast or boneless chicken if you want to be a bit more cautious. !