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Bird Flu

Related Pages: Emergency Communications » Emergency Management

If a bird flu virus were to change so that it could easily be passed from person to person, a worldwide pandemic could in fact occur. Experts around the world, including Emergency Management, are watching for changes in bird flu viruses that could lead to an influenza pandemic.

Q:
Is it safe to eat poultry?
 A:

Yes, it is safe to eat properly cooked poultry. Cooking destroys germs, including the bird flu virus. The United States bans imports of poultry and poultry products from countries where bird flu has been found.

Guidelines for the safe preparation of poultry include the following:

  • Wash hands before and after handling food.
  • Keep raw poultry and its juices away from other foods.
  • Keep hands, utensils, and surfaces, such as cutting boards, clean.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure poultry has been fully cooked. For example, cook a whole chicken to 180°F in an oven set to a minimum of 325°F. More information on how to properly cook poultry can be found at www.usda.gov/birdflu.
Q:
I live near people who keep chickens and other poultry? Am I safe?
 A:

This does not present a risk. At the present time, the H5N1 strain of bird flu that has spread through poultry farms in southeast Asia and into eastern Europe is not present in the U.S. Even if the H5N1 strain were to appear in the U.S., transmission from birds to people would require close contact with birds, such as handling, butchering or exposure to bird droppings.

Q:
I have a bird feeder and a bird bath in my yard. Is this safe?
 A:

Maintaining a clean bird feeder or bird bath is generally safe, unless these are attracting rodents or raccoons. It is always best to wear protective gloves when handling or cleaning these items to avoid contact with bird droppings or contaminated water in a bird bath. Always wash your hands with soap and water after doing these chores.

Q:
Does owning a caged pet bird increase the possibility of catching or spreading avian flu?
 A:

The likelihood of getting a pet bird that is already infected with avian flu is very low. It is illegal in the U.S. to import pet birds from regions that are infected with bird flu. In addition, if you're concerned and already own a pet bird, keep it inside to avoid exposure to wild or migratory birds.

If you are buying a new bird, especially of an exotic variety, be sure it has been legally imported. Smuggled birds from affected areas could possibly be infected with the bird flu virus. Information about federal embargoes on bird importation can be found at:
www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/outbreaks/embargo.htm

Q:
Can bird flu virus spread to my pet dog and cat?
 A:

There is no evidence that bird flu is a risk to dogs. Recently, there have been reports of a canine influenza virus in the U.S. but this is a different flu virus that affects only dogs. There is evidence from the Asian outbreak that the bird flu virus might affect cats fed raw poultry, but there is currently no cause for concern because the virus is not present in the U.S.

Q:
What is being done to monitor for bird flu in wild birds?
 A:

Several agencies are conducting surveillance for bird flu among wild birds, especially migratory waterfowl. Surveillance is being strengthened in certain parts of the country such as Alaska because it is believed that migratory birds like ducks and geese could carry bird flu there from Asia and Russia.

A fact sheet about the ecology of bird flu (avian influenza) viruses in wild bird populations can be found at the National Wildlife Health Center's Website.

Q:
Will bird flu cause the next influenza pandemic?
 A:

Avian influenza (bird flu) is a disease of wild and farm birds caused by influenza viruses. Bird flu viruses do not usually infect humans, but since 1997 there have been a number of confirmed cases of human infection from bird flu viruses. Most of these resulted from direct or close contact with infected birds (e.g., domesticated chickens, ducks, and turkeys).

The spread of bird flu viruses from an infected person to another person has been reported very rarely and has not been reported to continue beyond one person. A worldwide pandemic could occur if a bird flu virus were to change so that it could easily be passed from person to person. Experts around the world are watching for changes in bird flu viruses that could lead to an influenza pandemic.

Q:
What types of birds can carry bird flu viruses?
 A:

Wild birds can carry bird flu viruses but usually do not get sick from them. Domesticated birds (e.g., farm-raised chickens, ducks, and turkeys) can become sick with bird flu if they come into contact with an infected wild bird. Domesticated birds usually die from the disease.

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