Can Avian Influenza Be Transmitted in Food?

March 10, 2006

eggIn light of the New York Times report, ‘No Time to Be in the Chicken Business‘, which describes a drop in customers at European restaurants that serve chicken (featured restaurants include Kentucky Fried Chicken and Chicken Corner) since the emergence H5N1 infections in several European countries, I did a bit of fact checking on the method of virus transmission through food products. To date, there have been no documented cases of human avian influenza transmission through cooked poultry according to the World Health Organization. Here is a snip of their current report:

On-going outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in poultry in Asia and, more recently, in Europe have raised concerns about the source of infection and the risk to humans from various exposures. On present evidence, the vast majority of human cases have acquired their infection following direct contact with infected live or dead poultry. WHO is aware of recent concerns that the virus could also spread to humans through contact with contaminated poultry products. To date, no epidemiological data suggest that the disease can be transmitted to humans through properly cooked food (even if contaminated with the virus prior to cooking). However, in a few instances, cases have been linked to consumption of dishes made of raw contaminated poultry blood.

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