"Bird Flu": What You Need To Know
Before you become overly concerned about "bird flu," there are a few important
facts you need to know about this disease.
"Bird flu" is not the same thing as human pandemic flu. "Bird flu"-H5N1 highly
pathogenic Asian avian influenza-is a severe disease of birds. All the people
known to have gotten it had close contact with infected birds, mostly in rural
villages in Asia. Where there is no close contact with infected birds, there's
no human disease.
More good news: The food supply is protected. The poultry industry and the U.S.
government take Asian avian influenza very seriously because it can threaten
commercial poultry. It's spread by migratory birds, so the federal government
monitors wild birds in areas where there could be contact with Asian birds.
In addition, security on poultry farms is very tight. Poultry are kept away from
wild birds. Strict procedures keep the virus from being tracked into the birds'
living space. Poultry farmers' number one priority is to protect their flocks.
The industry and state governments sponsor extensive testing programs to watch
for any signs of Asian avian influenza. Under the National Chicken Council's
program, which nearly all chicken companies follow, each flock is tested. Any
poultry flock found to be infected with Asian avian influenza would be destroyed
on the farm and would not enter the food supply.
You can also feel confident about your chicken or turkey dinners. According to
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can't get "bird
flu" from properly handled and cooked food. Just be sure to follow the
instructions already printed on each package of fresh meat and poultry sold in
the United States. The instructions are the same as they have always
been-nothing special is needed. On the remote chance that an infected bird got
into the food supply, it wouldn't affect consumers. The U.S. Department of
Agriculture recommends cooking poultry to a minimum internal temperature of 165
degrees Fahrenheit. This is more than enough to destroy any flu viruses that may
"American consumers don't have to worry about getting the avian flu virus from
eating poultry," says Dr. Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety
at the University of Georgia. "We know that if you properly cook poultry, it's