Health officials: Poultry, eggs safe

Bird flu does not pose threat to humans; Heat of cooking destroys virus.

bird flu turkeys 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
bird flu turkeys 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Health Ministry voiced caution and urged the public not to panic after the Agriculture Ministry announced on Thursday night that turkeys on two Negev farms were "suspected" of having died from the H5N1 strain of avian flu. Health Ministry associate director-general Dr. Boaz Lev said that there was no danger to the general public, as avian flu spreads directly among poultry and wild birds and can spread only to people in direct contact with live birds whose droppings contain the virus. There is no danger eating poultry, even if the food supply has been affected by the virus, as the virus is destroyed by the heat of cooking and does not pass to humans who touch raw processed poultry. "It's a problem for the turkeys and the chickens, but not for humans at this point," said Prof. Manfred Green, director of the Israel Center for Disease Control. "If it is bird flu, poultry will be isolated and killed in the affected area within a radius of three kilometers. Agriculture workers who have been directly in contact with them could be given antivirals as a prophylactic measure and on an individual basis. We are waiting for confirmation. So far, it seems to be the H5 strain, but we are not sure that it is H5N1, which is more infectious." Chief veterinarian of the Agriculture Ministry Dr. Shimon Pokamunski told Israel Radio that it had not yet been decided to launch a massive poultry vaccination campaign, but should that decision be made, the Health Ministry would be ready to proceed within three days. The H5N1 virus was detected in neighboring Egypt last month, and Agriculture Minister Ze'ev Boim said the death of the birds in southern Israel might indicate that the disease had entered the country from Egypt. Health officials fear H5N1 could evolve into a virus that can be transmitted easily between people and become a global pandemic, but there has been no confirmation of this happening yet. At least 97 people have died from the disease worldwide, with most victims infected directly by sick birds.