Avian Influenza - Fictional Television
A made-for-television movie, “Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America” aired on the ABC network. Content of the program raised fears and concerns related to Avian Influenza, often referred to as “bird flu.”
Often fictional television movies use a mixture of factual information, exaggerated material and wild scenarios in order to tell an entertaining story. The following information is provided so that viewers have a complete picture of the facts surrounding avian influenza/bird flu.
- There is no danger of acquiring avian influenza (AI) from normally and properly cooked food. AI is caused by a virus, and it is destroyed by the heat of normal cooking. Even in the extremely unlikely event that a bird infected with a strain of avian influenza would make it to your home, it would not pose a threat if it were cooked properly (internal temperature of 165 degrees).
- The U.S. has never had an outbreak of the most serious strain of Avian Influenza (AI) know as H5N1. H5N1 is often referred to as the Asian strain.
- Migratory waterfowl may carry the Asian H5N1 strain and there is concern that the virus may be brought to North America by wild birds.
- A monitoring system is in place where scientists are routinely checking migratory birds in Alaska and elsewhere in the U.S. for signs of AI in the wild bird population.
- Modern poultry production methods in Pennsylvania and across the United States help prevent the entry of AI into flocks as the housing systems prevent exposure to wild birds.
- America’s poultry industry has multiple safeguards in place that are designed to prevent the disease and ensure early detection in the event of a possible introduction of AI. This multi-layered system of protection includes bio-security, testing, inspection and processing standards.
- Poultry farmers practice strict bio-security, and it is heightened during an outbreak of Avian Influenza. Trucks are hosed down, personnel wear protective clothing and plastic boots and go through footbaths and farmers are encouraged to stay away from community gatherings.
- The United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) has in place an extensive rapid response system. The government, in cooperation with the poultry industry, would eradicate the disease quickly by destroying infected flocks and disposing of them through environmentally safe methods. The people involved in destroying flocks wear gloves, masks and protective clothing.
Often you hear people in the news say “its not a matter of if, but when” when referring to the possibility of the Asian Bird Flu arriving in America. This is a point that needs to be clarified. When Agriculture, Health and other government officials make that statement they are referring to the possibility of a bird infected with the more serious Asian strain making into this country. Here are some points that need to be stressed:
- When people use the phrase “its not a matter of if, but when” they are NOT referring to the potential widespread passage of avian flu from human to human, which is known as a pandemic.
- People should not expect the worst. Just because an infected bird is in the country that doesn’t mean America’s poultry industry will be impacted, because there are numerous procedures in place to protect our animals and our food supply.
- The U.S. does a great job testing its flocks for AI. In fact, Pennsylvania is a national leader for testing and surveillance activities.
- There are many firewalls in place to protect the safety of animals and people. If a flock is infected it will be dealt with quickly and safely.
- At this time, there is no concrete evidence that bird flu can pass from human to human, but health and government officials are concerned about that possibility. In the approximately 200 documented cases of human illness overseas, the person contracted avian influenza through significant and close contact with live, sick birds. There has been no link whatsoever to anyone becoming ill through the consumption of poultry or eggs.
- Officials in Pennsylvania and across the United States are working on response plans should the avian flu somehow become a pandemic.