Phone:

E-mail:
02 9929 4077

acmf@chicken.org.au



Level 7, 122 Walker Street
NORTH SYDNEY
PO Box 579, North Sydney NSW 2059


Phone:

Fax:

E-mail:

02 9929 4077

02 9925 0627

acmf@chicken.org.au

ABN 24 077 883 026

Avian Influenza Questions

  1. Can I catch avian influenza (also known as bird flu) by eating chicken?
  2. Is there avian influenza in Australia at present?
  3. Are all chickens sold for consumption in Australia grown locally?
  4. What does the World Health Organisation (WHO) say about AI and food safety?
  5. What is the risk of Avian Influenza infecting Australian poultry?
  6. So what would happen if there were an outbreak of avian influenza in a poultry flock in Australia?
  7. What specific steps has the industry taken to minimise the risk?
  8. What is the risk of our food becoming contaminated?
  9. Where can I get more information on avian influenza and poultry?
  10. What is the risk of the disease spreading to humans?
  11. Where can I get more information on the possible human influenza pandemic?
  12. Where can I get more information on flu vaccines and pandemic flu vaccines?


  1. Can I catch avian influenza (also known as bird flu) by eating chicken?
    Avian influenza is not in your food. If you’ve heard about avian influenza and you’re concerned about the safety of eating poultry products you can relax - it is safe to eat poultry products in Australia. (Link to retailer pamphlet PDF in AI folder)
     
  2. Is there avian influenza in Australia at present?
    Avian influenza (a bird disease) is not present in Australia. It is however quite widespread in some South-East Asian countries and China and has made its appearance in a range of other countries, most recently Turkey, Nigeria, Italy, Germany and France.

    Australian chickens are free of avian influenza and the industry has rigorous systems to keep it that way.
     
  3. Are all chickens sold for consumption in Australia grown locally?
    Yes, the chicken you eat in Australia is grown in Australia. From your local takeaway or supermarket to your 5-star restaurant you’ll only find Australian chicken. Thanks to our strict quarantine policies, chicken imports are banned to protect our chickens from disease.
     
  4. What does the World Health Organisation (WHO) say about AI and food safety?
    “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.” (Link to AI WHO word doc in web folder)
     
  5. What is the risk of Avian Influenza infecting Australian poultry?
    Australia does not have Avian Influenza (H5N1) in poultry flocks, and there is an extremely low risk of an outbreak.

    Australia is extremely well prepared for such a possibility - the key to control would be early detection and notification.
     
  6. So what would happen if there were an outbreak of avian influenza in a poultry flock in Australia?
    Australia is a world leader in biological security and has comprehensive programs and procedures for the detection and eradication of any outbreak.

    In the unlikely event of an outbreak, the infected farm would immediately be quarantined and depopulated to control and eradicate any further spread in line with agreed national standards.

    No birds from flocks with disease should enter the food chain, as transporting and handling of infected poultry may disseminate virus further.

    No poultry products would be allowed to leave the infected farm. Any poultry products that may have left the farm prior to quarantine being imposed would be completely traceable and would be recalled.
     
  7. What specific steps has the industry taken to minimise the risk?
    The Australian poultry industry has taken comprehensive steps over the years to minimise the risk of an outbreak, including:
    • Strict bio-security on farms.
    • Constant vigilance. The industry is constantly checking and testing flocks for possible outbreaks in partnership with government; and
    • A well rehearsed and up-to-date rapid response plan which would come into play in the unlikely event of diseased flocks being detected.
     
  8. What is the risk of our food becoming contaminated?
    Eggs, meat and poultry products in Australia remain safe.

    If avian influenza was ever detected on a farm here, that property would be immediately quarantined. No products would leave the property from that point, and any poultry products that may have left the farm previously would be traced and recalled before they could reach the supermarket shelves.
     
  9. Where can I get more information on avian influenza and poultry?
    This website (www.chicken.org.au) has further information and links that you may wish to explore. An excellent international site is the US based information portal http://www.avianinfluenzainfo.com and the FAQs on that site. The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organisation are other good sources of information on avian influenza.
     
  10. What is the risk of the disease spreading to humans?
    Avian influenza and human pandemic influenza are different diseases.

    Avian influenza is a disease of birds which only very, very rarely causes disease in humans. The strain H5N1 is known to have infected over 100 people in the two years between December 2003 and the end of 2005.

    For a human influenza pandemic to become a reality, the current form of H5N1 virus would have to undergo a mutation or reassortment giving it the capacity for easy transmission between humans through airborne droplets as is the case for the normal influenza virus.

    There is only the most remote possibility of a human pandemic influenza developing in Australia. A more plausible scenario is the introduction into Australia of a human pandemic influenza virus through travel by a person infected with that virus. For that to happen, of course, the pandemic influenza virus has first to evolve.
     
  11. Where can I get more information on the possible human influenza pandemic?
    There are two diseases that are covered by the media at present. On the one hand there is the bird disease, avian influenza, and in particular the strain H5N1 that is affecting poultry in a number of South-East Asian countries, China and more recently Bulgaria, Rumania, the Ukraine, Turkey, Nigeria, Italy, Germany and France. The H5N1 strain is able to infect humans through close contact with contaminated birds. It only rarely transmits from birds to cause disease in humans. It does not transmit between humans. On the other hand, experts predict that reassortment or mutation of this or possibly some other virus could lead to a new virus emerging which transmits easily between humans and for which there is no established immunity in the human population. This could lead to a human influenza pandemic. If, when and how such an event is likely to occur is not known. However, WHO urges governments to prepare for this possibility. To read how the Australlian Government is preparing for a possible human influenza pandemic, go to the website of the Federal Department of Health and the Aging. For an international perspective, we recommend the World Health Organization site.
  12. Where can I get more information on flu vaccines and pandemic flu vaccines?

For answers to questions about vaccines against the normal human flu and the potential pandemic flu, a good source of information is the World Health Organisation's website.

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