Association of COVID-19 with Domestic Poultry – a Myth- Vet Experts
The poultry production is one of the most important and profitable component of Indian animal agriculture. Millions of farmers in India are involved in poultry production, processing, and value addition. The socio-economics of millions of people in India is dependent on the success of poultry industry as India produces around 120 crores of broilers and around 1030 crores of eggs. With 4.1 million tons of poultry meat production annually, India is at 3rd position in the world poultry production. The poultry, apart from providing job security to millions of people, remains one of the most important sources of good quality meat for human consumption. The continuous growth of poultry industry at 6-7% annually has been a blessing for Indian rural economy and nutritional security to our people.
With the increasing instances of COVID-19 over the last couple of months across the world; the poultry industry in India is at the receiving end and has come under the threat of huge losses. There are unnecessary and false rumours of COVID-19 being spread through poultry, and this unfounded and baseless fear has created a fear psychosis, resulting into a sharp decline in the consumption and therefore, demand of poultry products in India. Upto 50% reduction in the demand for poultry products has severely affected the health of poultry industry. The prices of poultry meat and eggs have fallen flat. There are many reports in the press of the farmers selling poultry products at throwaway prices. The poultry ventures once closed, will take huge costs, and time to restart.
While people associated with the business of poultry production and processing are badly affected, this is also leading to malnutrition because of lack of consumption of poultry products. It is expected that such a trend in the diets of our people will weaken immunity of masses making them more vulnerable to various diseases including attacks from viruses. This clearly means that while consumption of poultry products has nothing to do with the transmission of COVID-19, it instead makes a person immune to fight with the disease. It is therefore, imperative that such rumours of poultry spreading COVID-19 should be dispelled with.
As of now, there is no scientific evidence of involvement of domestic poultry and consumption of poultry products in the ongoing pandemic i.e. novel coronavirus. The World Organization of Animal Health (OIE), Paris has clearly stated that the main root of COVID-19 transmission is human-to-human interaction and that poultry products have not been found to be involved. The Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying, Government of India, in a press release has also clarified that there is no involvement of poultry in spreading such viruses. Instead, the consumption of fully cooked poultry products would be safe and there would be no threat of COVID-19. The Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSFAI) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have also notified that there is no scientific evidence of food borne transmission of COVID-19. The need of the hour, therefore is not to get scared of novel coronavirus but to deal with it in a more scientific and systematic manner. Stopping of poultry meat and eggs would not in any way reduce the threat of its infection as such. It is, therefore, advised that people should not follow the rumours about poultry products; instead they should take all possible precautions to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.
The experts of GADVASU have clarified that hygienically processing, and properly cooked poultry meat and eggs are not a source of novel coronavirus. Hence, consuming properly cooked, clean poultry meat and eggs do not add to the threat of COVID-19. Instead, experts are of the opinion that consumption of protein rich poultry meat and eggs would help them for better immunity, thereby reducing chances of contacting diseases. Dr A S Nanda, Vice Chancellor of the University has appealed to the people not to live in rumours of poultry birds spreading novel coronavirus. Instead, he advised people to remain vigilant and take all precautions. People have been advised to remain away from crowded areas until necessary, wash hands with soap and other sanitizers quite often and do not sneeze or spit in the public. While coughing, the face should be covered with a mask or cloth. If at all, there are any symptoms of COVID-19 e.g. fever, respiratory distress, sneezing or cough, people should contact the doctor for proper medication and advice.