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No, you can’t get coronavirus from eating chicken

“Carona virus has been found in broiler chicken,” reads a screenshot of an older Facebook post uploaded on Facebook in Nigeria on 1 March 2020.

“Request to all of you not to eat broiler chicken,” it adds.

The new coronavirus has so far infected nearly 170,000 people across the world with the disease Covid-19

More than 6,500 people have died. Another 77,000 or so have recovered.

Has the virus infected broiler chickens – chickens farmed for meat, not eggs? And could you get Covid-19 from eating the meat of an infected chicken?

A viral claim?

The screenshot is from a post uploaded on Facebook in India, where the claim has been widespread.

It shows photos of dead chickens and chicken meat. But the images have nothing to do with coronavirus. One image of a dead chick comes from a scientific paper investigating a disease outbreak at a broiler farm, with no mention of coronaviruses.

Many sites have debunked the claim since it began circulating on WhatsApp and Facebook.

Health officials in India have tried to put an end to the claim.

In early February the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, which is based in the region where the rumour first began, released a statement that there was “no evidence” that broiler chickens were spreading coronavirus.

Fact-checkers at AFP spoke to several experts who said no poultry – such as chickens – were thought to carry the virus.

A spokesperson for the Indian Department of Health and Family Welfare told AFP: “There is no evidence that suggests [the new coronavirus] can be transmitted through food.”

Is there any truth here?

The new virus, identified in 2019, is just one of a family of coronaviruses that can cause mild to serious respiratory diseases.

Some coronaviruses have been transmitted from animals to people. The 2019 coronavirus is suspected to have started in bats, spread to another animal and from there to people. This theory has been supported by research that’s found a strong similarity between the 2019 coronavirus and previously identified strains in bats.

But there is still no evidence that people can get the virus by eating chicken.

The World Health Organization has advised people to be cautious of direct contact with animals in places like live animal markets. “Ensure good food safety practices at all times,” it says. Cook all meat thoroughly, and take care when handling raw meat.

But the WHO doesn’t say we should avoid eating certain food, such as chicken.

The advice is mainly to take simple precautions. Wash your hands regularly, avoid close physical contact, and keep away from crowds of people.

Bottom line? Some coronaviruses have gone from animals to people, but there’s no evidence chicken meat transmits the virus. Any meat should be safe to eat if cooked properly, and people have not been advised to avoid any particular foods.

This viral claim is incorrect. – Keegan Leech


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