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The Human Side of Avian Influenza

Someone taking a photo with their phone of chicken meal

Poultry Food Safety

Experts agree that avian influenza does NOT affect human health or food safety. That being said, events like an avian flu outbreak does help raise awareness about the importance of safe food production, handling, and preparation. These resources are here to help.

Can Avian Influenza Be Passed in Eggs?iGrow, a Service of South Dakota State University Extension — Reviews the facts, including tips for safe handling and cooking of eggs.

Can Avian Influenza Be Passed in Eggs?

Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several case of avian influenza (or AI) in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi flyways. More recently, there have been reports of AI in commercial flocks in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa. AI is commonly called the “bird flu.”

According to the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates shell eggs, the chance of infected poultry or eggs entering the food chain would be extremely low.

Several safeguards are in place with inspections and testing programs to prevent the chance of infected poultry or eggs from entering the food chain. Hens infected with AI usually stop laying eggs as one of the first signs of illness, and the few eggs that are laid by infected hens generally would not get through egg washing and grading because the shells are weak and misshapen. The flow of eggs from a facility is stopped at the first suspicion of an outbreak without waiting for a confirmed diagnosis. Because of this, eggs in the marketplace are unlikely to be contaminated with AI.

AI is not transmissible by eating poultry or eggs that have been properly prepared. Cooking poultry, eggs, and other poultry products to the proper temperature and preventing cross-contamination between raw and cooked food is the key to safety. You should follow the same handling practices that are recommended to prevent illness from common foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter2.

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw poultry and eggs.
  • Clean cutting boards and other utensils with soap and hot water to keep raw poultry and eggs from contaminating other foods.
  • Sanitize cutting boards by using a solution of 1 Tablespoon of chlorine bleach and 1 gallon of water.
  • Cook poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165° F.
  • Cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm. Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160° F.
  • If preparing a recipe that calls for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is served, use shell eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella by pasteurization or another approved method, or pasteurized egg products.

To summarize, Avian influenza cannot be transmitted through safely handled and properly cooked eggs, chicken or turkey. As a reminder, however, all eggs, chicken and turkey should be cooked thoroughly and at the recommended temperatures to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses.

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¿Puede pasar la gripe aviaria en huevos?

Desde diciembre del 2014, el Departamento de Agricultura de los Estados Unidos ha confirmado varios casos de gripe aviaria en las rutas de vuelo migratorio del Pacífico, del área Central y del Mississippi. Recientemente, han habido informes sobre la gripe aviaria en una bandada comercial en Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin y Iowa. La gripe aviaria (por su sigla en inglés AI) es comúnmente conocida como “gripe de pollo.”

Según la Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos que controla los huevos en cáscara, el riesgo de que entren aves de corral o huevos infectados a la cadena alimenticia es sumamente bajo.

Varias medidas se han establecido por medio de programas de inspección y de pruebas para evitar que huevos o aves de corral infectadas entren a la cadena alimenticia. Las gallinas infectadas con la gripe aviaria generalmente dejan de poner huevos como uno de los primeros síntomas de la enfermedad y los pocos huevos que ponen las gallinas infectadas generalmente no pasarán por el lavado y clasificación debido a que sus cáscaras son frágiles y deformes. La circulación de huevos de una instalación se detiene a la primera sospecha de un brote sin esperar la confirmación del diagnóstico. Debido a esto, es difícil que los huevos en el mercado estén contaminados con gripe aviaria.

La gripe aviaria no se transmite por comer huevos o aves de corral que han sido correctamente preparadas. La cocción de aves de corral, huevos y otros productos aviarios a una temperatura adecuada y la prevención de la contaminación cruzada entre los alimentos crudos y cocidos es lo más importante como medida de seguridad. Debe seguir la misma práctica de manipulación que se recomienda para evitar las enfermedades de patógenos comunes transmitidos por los alimentos como la salmonela y la campilobacteria2.

  • Lavarse las manos con agua tibia y jabón por lo menos 20 segundos antes y después de tocar las aves de corral y los huevos crudos.
  • Limpiar las tablas de cortar y otros utensilios con jabón y agua caliente para evitar que los huevos y aves de corral crudos contaminen los otros alimentos.
  • Desinfectar las tablas de cortar usando una solución de 1 cuchara de mesa de blanqueador y un galón de agua.
  • Cocinar las aves de corral a una temperatura interna de por lo menos 165°F.
  • Cocinar los huevos hasta que la yema y la clara estén firme. Los platos al horno y otros platos con huevo se deben cocinar a 160°F.
  • Si se prepara una receta con huevo crudo o medio crudo al momento de servir el plato utilizar huevos en cáscara que hayan sido tratados para eliminar el riesgo de la salmonela por pasteurización o por otro método aprobado o utilizar productos avícolas pasteurizados.

En resumen, la gripe aviaria no puede transmitirse por medio de huevos, pollo o pavos cocidos correctamente y manipulados de manera segura. Sin embargo se debe recordar que se debe cocinar completamente los huevos, el pollo y el pavo y a la temperatura recomendada para reducir el riesgo de enfermedades transmitidas por los alimentos.

Por más información visita este sitio web:

Freezing EggsAmerican Egg Board — Get tips for freezing eggs safely. This is a great strategy when you want to purchase eggs while the price is low, or have an overabundant supply.

Small and Backyard Poultry Flocks: Produce, Sell, and Cook It SafeiGrow, a Service of South Dakota State University Extension — Reviews considerations for the farm, slaughter and processing facilities, and consumers.

USDA Questions and Answers: Food Safety and Avian InfluenzaUnited States Department of Agriculture — Get answers to the most common food safety questions related to avian influenza.

Related Resources

Eggs: Food Safety Tips — Procedures for safely preparing and eating eggs, and avoiding foodborne illness.

Food Safety Checklist for Farm Fresh Eggs — Food safety checklist to get cracking with "farm" or "yard" fresh chicken eggs.

Meat and Fish — Get information on canning, freezing, pickling, grilling, and cooking meat and poultry.

Food SafetyIowa State University Extension — Explore trainings, topics, educational materials, and more from Iowa Extension.

Food SafetyiGrow, a Service of South Dakota State University Extension — Get articles on the latest news and research, food safety and preservation, and more from South Dakota Extension.

Avian Influenza A Virus Infections in HumansCenters for Disease Control and Prevention — Although the avian flu does not usually infect humans, rare cases of infection have been reported from those with close contact with infected birds.

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