Newswise – In the midst of widespread fears about a bird flu pandemic, some health experts are advising that if you cook poultry and eggs thoroughly, you have little chance of contracting avian flu. In the US, we have already been warned to avoid undercooked chicken, since all of our poultry is infected with the salmonella virus, which is destroyed by high heat.

Stephen Castle and David Eimer report in the Independent that scientists at the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm say that, unless you are involved in chicken farming, the danger of getting bird flu is “almost non-existent.” They say that the H5N1 virus, which causes avian flu, is extremely hard for people to catch. There have been conflicting reports of whether or not H5N1 has mutated to the point where it can be passed from person to person.

Meanwhile, Purdue University health expert James mcGlothlin says, “Being alert to the danger of this virus, as well as practicing common-sense measures, can go a long way toward saving lives.” So far, the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed at least 60 deaths due to bird flu. He doesn’t think the H5N1 virus can be transferred person-to-person yet, and he says that when a vaccine IS developed, there won’t be enough to go around for at least a year and “we’re not even sure how effective it will be.”

Despite the fact that, as recent hurricanes have shown, most of our military is busy fighting in Iraq, President Bush has said that if a bird flu pandemic does begin, he will send National Guardsmen to cities to enforce quarantines. However, McGlothin thinks quarantine is not a good option, and that it’s better for public health officials at all levels to stay on top of tracking the illness.

He says, “It would have to be the right combination of events to create a pandemic, the simplest being that one person who has the human flu virus is exposed to one with the avian flu and the two viruses mixed then mutated to form a new virus to spread from human to human and to which humans do not have immunity. At that point, it would be much harder to stop its spread. Quarantines to be managed by the military, which have been suggested by President Bush, would be our last option.”

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