Perhaps you have heard about Avian Influenza, or “bird flu” recently in the news. Maybe you are wondering if there is any danger of getting “bird flu” from eating chicken or turkey. The answer is “No” as long as the meat is properly cooked. The facts are: The type of avian influenza occurring in Asia is called the H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1 HPAI). We have never had H5N1 HPAI in the United States. A few other things to consider.
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 correct cooking methods. Washing the hands after handling raw poultry is always a good precaution, but there is no danger of getting avian influenza from normally and properly cooked poultry. The normal precautions for handling and cooking poultry are printed on the package.
Remember that the areas where the Bird Flu is affecting people in Asia are rural areas where people live along side their birds and interact with them daily. In most cases sanitation is not good. Here in the United States, the majority of our birds are confined to buildings and have bio-hazard precautions that are enforced daily. Also, many states have already been testing for Avian Influenza in flocks for years, and the others are implementing programs now.
The United States Government has a program set up to help deal with the threat of “bird flu” should the H5N1 or any low pathogenic strain affect our poultry population. If it were ever to reach the United States, the affected area’s poultry would be quarantined and the plan that is already in place would take effect. State and Federal government would give information to the public about how to proceed.
The most important thing to remember is not to panic, now or if any strain of the bird flu affects the United States in the future. You should continue to eat, buy, and keep poultry. Just be sure you clean your hands and clothing properly after you have contact with live poultry. Finally, keep the area clean and disinfect regularly where you house your poultry. It is not recommended that you allow other people who care for live poultry onto an area where your poultry is kept. Lastly, remember to properly cook all meats before eating. For further information on the Bird Flu, see the National Chicken Council’s website.