Poultry Experts Talk Turkey About Bird Flu

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and poultry officials are becoming more public in their efforts to separate bird flu fact from fiction.

A public service announcement that was recently released tries to calm fears of the unknown by telling the public that getting hit with a meteor is more likely than getting avian flu from a chicken or turkey currently in the United States.

As one of the nation's top turkey states, Indiana is at the forefront of protecting poultry. Hoosier farms started diagnostic surveillance of flocks 20 years ago. Since then, the industry's added bio-security measures -- including raising birds indoors, limiting visitors and taking blood samples.

Indiana turkey breeder Mike Maroney's farm produces more than 15 million birds and 12 million eggs each year. Maroney said there are sophisticated safeguards in place to protect commercial bird flocks from disease before they reach consumers' tables.

Farmers test the birds every three weeks and again right before they head to market.

"We have blood testing done 10 days prior to slaughter to ensure that no flocks are positive for any type of infectious diseases," Maroney said.

The only human illnesses from avian flu resulted from direct contact with infected or dead birds overseas.

The virus hasn't mutated to transmit from person to person. Experts said they fear that could cause a public health crisis, similar to the 1918 flu pandemic, in which a strain mutated to spread through people. Ultimately, 50 million people worldwide died.

"The pandemic flu doesn't exist. It may never exist, and when and if it does, the relationship with poultry will be next to nothing," said Paul Brennan, of the Indiana Poultry Association.

Poultry officials said consumers can further protect themselves by cooking poultry thoroughly.

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