Talking Turkey

US - With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, the U.S. government and the poultry industry are scrambling to make sure avian flu fears don't keep Americans from enjoying the traditional turkey dinner this year.

Last week, Dr. Ron DeHaven, a veterinarian and head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, gathered with other members of the government’s “biosecurity” team and Alice Johnson, president of the National Turkey Federation, to elaborate on steps they've taken to keep U.S. poultry healthy, and to offer tips for worried home cooks who want to take extra precautions this holiday season.

Is there reason for Americans to worry? Not much, say officials. There are almost as many turkeys raised each year in the United States as there are people, and there's little doubt that some commercially grown birds will get a mild strain of avian flu this year.

There are 144 types of bird flu, which can range from low to highly pathogenic (or contagious). But only the high path strain called H5N1 is known to kill people, and, to date, it has not infected U.S. poultry.

Another highly contagious strain for chickens, H5N2, has caused two outbreaks at U.S. chicken farms in the past. The biggest occurred in 1983 in Pennsylvania, leading to the destruction of 17 million chickens at a cost of about $70 million. In 2004, there was a smaller outbreak in Texas.

But officials stress that in neither instance did the flu spread to humans. Most of the routine bird flu each year is not very contagious and doesn’t cause outbreaks. “With the current situation, our concern is that we’ve set the stage for an overreaction,” DeHaven says.

Source: msnbc
calendar icon 2 November 2005
clock icon 1 minute read
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