Can We Still Eat Poultry and Not Contract The Bird Flu?

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                 Poultry, according to the Heart Foundation, is one form of meat in a lean cut, that provides omnivores with a good source of protein, iron, selenium and Vitamin B. The avian flu, since its original outbreak, have caused quite a bit of frustration in the Asian community because chickens, ducks and geese are among our staple foods.  
                     H7N9 is spilling out of everyone’s lips, but does everyone even know what it actually stands for???? Many people are walking around talking about H7N9, H5N1 or H1N1 and have no idea what the H or N stands for. If you know already, bear with me for another paragraph, keep calm and carry on.

                     Apparently there are 3 strains of the influenza virus, A, B, and C,  according to Kenneth Todar PhD of Bacteriology. The current bird flu is of strain A, which has 2 types of surface proteins, Hemaglutinin and Nuraminidase, hence H and N. The H is required by the virus to attach itself to the host’s cell membrane, which has 15 different subtypes and the N is needed to penetrate and release the viral content (RNA) into the host cell, which has 9 different subtypes. 
                        The CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention posted a response update on May 10th, 2013 stating that even there is no reported case of H7N9 outside of China and no sustained case of human-to-human transmission, they are still taking precautions that the virus may have the potential of becoming a pandemic and become fully transmissible between humans. 
                         So the big question is, can we still eat poultry? …the answer is YES! BUT since there is no vaccine for H7N9,  the following precautions, recommended by the World Health Organization are the key steps to prevent infection: 
  1. Wash your hands with soap and running water before, during, and after the preparation of food; before you eat; after the toilet; after touching animals or their waste; when your hands are dirty; and when caring for the sick.
  2. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask, tissue, a sleeve or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing; throw the used tissue into a closed bin immediately after use; wash hands after contact with any body secretions. 
  3. Cook your poultry to 70°C in all parts, which should be “piping” hot with no “pink” parts. 
  4. Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat separate from cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Disinfect knives and cutting boards after cutting raw meat.  
  5. Avoid direct contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals.
  6. The best is to cook eggs thoroughly until the whites and yolks are firm at 70oC.  
             In the business side of things, Forbes Magazine just reported that the outbreak has reportedly caused more than $1 billion of losses to China’s poultry industry due to the   plummeted demand for chicken meat.
              In the last 10 years Hong Kong has not only experienced different strains of the avian flu, but SARS. Many stores and buildings sanitize their doors, elevators and railings every few hours to protect themselves and the public. Since my arrival to Hong Kong, 2 months ago, I’ve learned some table etiquette that are commonly accepted here whereas, would be strangely looked upon anywhere else in the world. People would request an extra cup of hot water to dip their utensils in for an extra safety measure to kill the last bit of pathogens frolicking around their table. Theres another interesting etiquette to follow when visiting a restaurant with a bucket of chopsticks in the center of the table. Do not think you are doing someone a favor by passing out chopsticks by placing it on the table in front of them. The chopstick heads should be placed facing out and hanging off the edges of the table since you never know what towels eateries use to wipe table tops. 
            Living in a densely populated city with roughly 7 million people constantly surrounding you, people learn to protect themselves and I sure hope you will do so.  
 

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