Bird flu (avian influenza)

What is bird flu?

Avian influenza is a disease of birds. While it can pass very rarely and with difficulty to humans, this requires extremely close contact with infected birds.

It is important to be clear about the differences between avian flu, seasonal flu, and pandemic flu. Seasonal flu refers to the illness which occurs each winter due to human influenza viruses which are circulating in the population. Pandemic flu occurs infrequently when a new influenza virus emerges which is markedly different from those recently circulating in the human population; causes disease in people; and spreads easily between people because they have little or no immunity to it. This could happen through an avian flu virus mutating into a different strain with greater affinity for people.

Is it safe to eat chicken and eggs?

Advice from the Food Standards Agency is that properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat. The virus isn't contracted by eating food - but by close contact with infected birds.

People should follow normal food hygiene advice in relation to handling raw poultry meat in the kitchen. People should ensure that turkey meat is cooked to the point where the juices run clear and there are no red parts in the meat.

Last reviewed: 15 - 09 - 2014

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