Avian Influenza “Bird Flu” is the common name for avian influenza, a respiratory disease of birds that is caused by a virus. There are several different types of avian influenza. The milder forms occur occasionally around the world. These are known as Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza or LPAI. The more serious form is known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) because the disease is much more severe in birds, and it results in high mortality in poultry flocks. Influenza virus lives mainly in the respiratory system and is spread through droplets of moisture. So far, with only one known, unconfirmed exception, humans have acquired H5N1 HPAI only from very close contact with infected, live birds.
U.S. Poultry Safety There is no danger of acquiring avian influenza from normally and properly cooked food. Avian influenza is caused by a virus. Like all types of viruses, avian influenza is destroyed by the heat of normal cooking. No chickens or turkeys known or suspected to be infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza are processed for sale as raw meat in the United States. Washing the hands after handling raw poultry is always a good precaution, but consumers in the United States have virtually no chance of encountering meat from a chicken or turkey infected with avian influenza. More importantly, the USA does not have the H5N1 HPAI and does not import poultry from the affected Asian countries.
Avian Influenza Protection Poultry companies and farmers practice strict biosecurity at all times and it is heightened during any outbreak of avian influenza. The trucks carrying feed are hosed down, personnel wear protective clothing and plastic boots and go through footbaths, farmers stay away from community gatherings, and farmers generally keep their farms locked down until the problem has passed. The eradication efforts in Virginia, Delaware and Texas in recent years resembled military operations in their scope and precision.
Influenza and Pigs Influenza A viruses is of concern to pork producers. Pigs can serve as hosts of influenza viruses transmitted from birds to pigs.Pork producers minimize transmission of influenza viruses through their on-farm management and biosecurity progams, mainly by avoiding contact of pigs to birds. There is no evidence that pigs have played a role in the transmission of H5N1 in Asia.