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Discussing the basics of avian influenza

Perhaps you have heard about avian influenza, or bird flu, in Asia. Maybe you are wondering if there is any danger of getting bird flu from eating chicken or turkey. The answer is no.

The type of avian influenza occurring in Asia is called H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1 HPAI). We have never had H5N1 HPAI in the United States and do not have it now. We do not import any chicken, turkey, or poultry products from Asia.

The fresh poultry products you see in the store are all produced in the United States except for a very small amount produced in Canada. Avian influenza is caused by a virus. Like all microorganisms, it is killed by the heat of normal cooking. There is no danger of getting avian influenza from normally and properly cooked poultry.

Following is a list five important points related to bird flu. These points were compiled by poultry specialists of the University of Georgia in collaboration with the American Association of Avian Pathologists, the National Chicken Council, and National Turkey Federation.

Point #1 - Asian Bird Flu has never infected poultry in the United States. Ever vigilant, the U.S. poultry industry tests continuously to insure the virus that causes Asian Bird Flu does not get a foothold in commercial poultry flocks.

Point #2 - There is no danger of contracting Asian Bird Flu from eating or handling chicken or turkey. Since Asian Bird Flu does not exist in U.S. poultry, there is virtually no chance of coming into contact with meat from infected birds. The U.S. has banned poultry imports from all countries where Asian Bird Flu has occurred. In addition, proper cooking and food handling practices essentially eliminate any chance of food-related disease.

Point #3 - Most experts do not believe Asian Bird Flu is likely to become a serious human health issue. At present the virus that causes Asian Bird Flu does not easily infect humans. In spite of all the media attention, a very small number of people (only about 100 mainly in Thailand and Vietnam) have contracted Asian Bird Flu. Almost all of those infected have had very close, direct contact with diseased birds. The virus does not spread easily from one person to another. It does not spread easily from birds to man either. There is concern that if the virus mutates in such a way that it begins to spread from human to human, that many more people could become infected; however, public health professionals in affected countries are working diligently with support from the international community to control the virus and eliminate this potential threat. Again, the chance of large numbers of people contracting Asian Bird Flu is very remote because the virus is not easily spread between people or from birds to people.

Point #4 - Great effort is being made to prevent Asian Bird Flu from being introduced into the U.S. Extensive plans have been developed to minimize the chance that Asian Bird Flu might infect U.S. poultry and to quickly eliminate it in the unlikely case it does. Federal, state, university, public health, poultry industry trade groups and poultry companies have all worked together to develop a coordinated, rapid and comprehensive response. If Asian Bird Flu is detected, a wide area around the outbreak will be immediately quarantined; infected birds will be humanely destroyed and disposed of in an environmentally sound way to stop the chance of any additional spread. The U.S. poultry industry has had success in controlling similar virus caused diseases, and thus is prepared to contend with this threat.

Point #5 - The modern methods of poultry production in the U.S. makes an Asian Bird Flu outbreak much less likely here. Most poultry in Asia are kept in people's backyards or allowed to roam free. Wild birds carry the virus that causes the disease and spread it to these é─˙outdooré─¨ poultry. In the U.S., commercial poultry flocks are kept in environmentally controlled poultry houses where they are protected from contact with wild birds and other vectors that may cause disease.



Web posted on Thursday, October 27, 2005











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