Ludhiana 23 March 2020-No pandemic bothered us for almost a century. Punjab remained insulated from many global human epidemics such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, bird flu, Ebola and Nipah viral infections happening in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, a prevailing peace on this front has been severely disturbed by a cunning novel corona virus (COVID -19), that has both high infection and virulence properties. History of Punjab reminds us that the state is known to face a new challenge every day. Extraordinary times need extraordinary measures. Therefore, it is high time that we act wisely to defeat COVID -19.

The purpose of writing this article is to disseminate accurate information among livestock and poultry farmers, consumers and the general public. It is very misfortunate that poultry sector in Punjab is in deep crisis due to rumours and false news circulated on social media about the association of novel corona virus (COVID -19) with chicken meat and eggs. There is no association between consumption of properly cooked poultry products with the occurrence of novel corona virus (COVID -19). People need to understand that COVID -19 is not bird flu and is not transmitted by poultry.

What is COVID 19

A new corona virus Covid 19 causing human cases of pneumonia originated from Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China and disseminated almost all over the world. The situation of Covid 19 is alarming across the globe and India is no exception. As per the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 62 of World Health Organisation, 291430 total confirmed cases and 12777 total deaths have been reported till the time of writing this article. In India, 283 total confirmed cases and 4 deaths have been reported till date. Therefore, public awareness and prevention on this viral disease are most important to combat this massive challenge.

Route of transmission

As per the World Organisation for animal health (OIE), the predominant route of current transmission of COVID-19 appears to be from human to human. To date, there is not enough scientific evidence to identify the source or to explain the route of transmission from an animal source to humans. The genetic sequence data reveals that the COVID-19 virus is a close relative of other corona virus found circulating in Rhinolophus bat (Horseshoe Bat) populations. There is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19.

Are domestic animals in anyway associated with COVID-19 infections in people?

Dr. A.S. Nanda, Vice-Chancellor, GADVASU informed that as of now there is no evidence for the food borne transmission of Corona virus. Unfortunately, there is prevailing panic and rumours in the public that COVID-19 can be transmitted via consumption of poultry meat and eggs, but scientists from Guru Angad Dev Veterinary & Animal Sciences University reassure the general public that no such scientific evidence is available to advocate this. The national and international health agencies particularly World Health Organisation recommends that cook meat and eggs before consuming, and while cooking, follow good hygienic practices. However, this advisory is also relevant to vegetarian foods. Animal protein from livestock and poultry reared in Punjab is safe and nutritious and it is recommended to continue follow your food habits, take care that you eat properly cooked chicken meat and eggs. Therefore, not buying poultry meat and eggs particularly produced in the country is not a wise idea. Take general precautions as recommended by the national and international human and animal health agencies. Similar viral outbreaks of corona virus in the past (SARS 2002-03, MERS 2012-13) or corona associated common cold had no involvement of poultry or poultry products globally. The Indian Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying also emphasized that the consumption of Indian poultry and poultry products including eggs is safe. A general hygiene, however, may be followed.

Frozen food items must be consumed only after cooking them properly. Good hygienic practices must be followed before consuming raw fruits and vegetables. Further, the Food Safety & Standards Authority (FSSAI), the food regulator of the country, has informed that food imported into India including from the Corona virus affected countries is safe for human consumption.

General precautions for farmers and people dealing with animals and their products

In accordance with advice offered by the World Health Organization, the scientists from School of Public Health and Zoonoses, Guru Angad Dev Veterinary & Animal Sciences University have released a list of general precautions for farmers, consumers or those handling animals and their products.

  • When visiting live animal markets, animal product markets, general hygiene measures should be applied, including regular hand washing with soap and potable water after touching animals and animal products, avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with hands, and avoiding contact with sick animals or spoiled animal products.
  • Any contact with other animals possibly living in the market (e.g., stray cats and dogs, rodents, birds, bats) should be strictly avoided.
  • Attention should also be taken to avoid contact with potentially contaminated animal waste or fluids on the soil or structures of shops and market facilities.
  • If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, and playing. You should continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions (e.g., wash hands before and after interacting with your pet).
  • Regular washing of hands with soap or alcohol-based sanitizers is considered as the most important measure.
  • Covering nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing.
  • Do not go to crowded places, avoid unnecessary travels, maintain social distancing, stay home and protect yourself and others.
  • If sick, visit your doctor or call helpline number.

Figure legend: Hygienically produced meat helps in preventing the diseases.