Claims eggs-aggerated: Why the avian flu egg warning is fake news
It is safe to eat eggs despite the outbreak of avian flu among chickens in the country, says the CEO of the Egg Organisation at the SA Poultry Association.
Eggs are safe to eat, the CEO of the Egg Organisation at the SA Poultry Association, Dr Abongile Balarane, said on Thursday.
Balarane was reacting to WhatsApp and social media messages that were widely distributed this week following an outbreak of avian flu among chickens in South Africa. The messages warned that it was unsafe to eat eggs.
“It is safe to consume eggs,” Balarane said. “The current outbreak does not spread from chickens to humans. There are no reported cases of a spread to humans.”
He explained that avian influenza started among wild birds and was then transferred to chickens.
“There have been no reported cases of the spread of the virus from the egg-layer birds to humans. We, therefore, advise consumers that it is safe to consume eggs and poultry.
“Care should, however, be taken to handle eggs and meat hygienically and prevent cross-contamination, and ensure thorough cooking,” he said.
“The circulating WhatsApp message warning consumers from consuming eggs is unfounded and intends to create panic. There has not been any disease confirmed associated with poultry that affects people.
“The message also fails to disclose the reason for this warning, making it difficult to address the specific concern raised,” Balarane said.
“It is more of a supply problem, but, unfortunately, certain individuals decided to spread rumours… warning people to stop eating eggs.
“Once a chicken on a farm tests positive for avian influenza, the chickens and eggs on that farm and their food are destroyed to contain the spread of the disease.”
He said they also ensured that eggs distributed prior to the virus being detected were collected from stores and destroyed.
A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Reggie Ngcobo, said one of the first signs a chicken had been infected by avian flu was that they stopped laying eggs.
Prof Cheryl Cohen of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases also confirmed that it was only in very rare cases that people, who are in close, direct contact with live chickens, were infected with avian flu and that the disease is also not transmitted between people.
She added that it was flu season. According to the NICD, the dominant flu virus this year is H1N1 (swine flu).
“Avian influenza is a disease of birds. People in the general population are not at risk of being infected with this virus. In rare circumstances, humans who are in very close contact with infected birds, eg workers on poultry farms, have been said to acquire infection,” said Cohen.
“In the rare event that a human infection does occur, the virus is not adapted to spread between people and so the risk of transmission from an infected person is extremely low,” she said.
Cohen also confirmed that it was safe to eat eggs. DM