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Can You Get Bird Flu from Eating Turkey?

Two years ago, the dreaded bird flu arrived in the UK along with a parrot imported from South America. Now bird flu has been found there on a turkey farm.

Almost 160,000 birds on a single farm will be killed, in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Officials in the UK are debated about whether to force farmers to vaccinate their poultry flocks, so that people who eat the meat do not contract the deadly bird flu virus. The Netherlands already vaccinates 90% per cent of their poultry flocks. However, scientists fear that while a vaccine can cover up the symptoms that signal the start of an epidemic because it stops birds from dying, but does not halt the spread of disease, since there is no true vaccine against the H5N1 virus. The UK is especially concerned about this, since that country is one of the places where people caught the human form of Mad Cow Disease by eating tainted hamburger.

No one is sure how the turkeys got bird flu in the first place. Virologist John Oxford says that while scientists expected this to happen eventually, it would have been more likely to occur on a small free-range farm, where chickens had contact with wild birds. He thinks that a wild bird carrying the virus might have entered the shed through a ventilation shaft, or else infected bird droppings may have been tracked inside on the shoes of workers.

In the Independent, Jeremy Laurance quotes UN flu expert David Nabarro as saying that the world should expect more avian flu outbreaks in the coming months.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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