MU Extension MU Extension       University of Missouri    ●    Columbia    ●    Kansas City       Missouri S&T     ●    St. Louis - Food and Fitness


Feature Articles: Holidays

Don't let the bird flu spoil Thanksgiving

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in Barton County
University of Missouri Extension


Edited by Jessica Kovarik, RD, LD, Extension Associate, University of Missouri Extension

During the Thanksgiving season, it is important to be aware of the threat of bird flu but it is still OK to serve that traditional turkey.

During the Thanksgiving season there may be concern about the bird flu, but don't let that stop you from serving turkey.


Avian Influenza, commonly known as “bird flu” is mostly spread by poultry and other birds. The natural concern for anyone would be that we could contract this life-threatening illness through the poultry we eat. However, health officials are not concerned about the spread of Avian Flu through food sources.

There are several strains of the Avian Influenza (AI) virus. AI is classified based on the severity of illness they cause in poultry. LPAI or low pathogenicity avian influenza produces few clinical signs in infected birds. HPAI or high pathogenicity avian influenza is the more severe form of the disease that is more contagious and causes death in infected birds. One strain of the high pathogenicity virus is H5N1. This strain has been found mostly in Asian countries and most recently has spread to Europe. H5N1 has been contracted by humans and caused serious illness and death.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the virus is spread by direct contact from infected birds to healthy birds and by indirect contact from contaminated equipment and materials. The virus is excreted through the feces and body secretions of the bird. Most people who have contracted bird flu have had direct contact with infected birds.

USDA has implemented safeguards to prevent introduction of H5N1 in the United States. These restrictions include: “Prohibiting the importation of live birds and hatching eggs from countries that have been affected by H5N1, requiring poultry products from East and Southeast Asia to be processed or cooked in accordance with a USDA permit prior to importation and requiring all imported birds to be quarantined at a USDA facility and be tested for Avian flu before entering the country.” (

There have been incidences of the LPAI in the United States. According to the USDA this type is not transmittable by eating poultry. If HPAI did happen to enter the US, it is unlikely it would reach the food chain.


Still, the USDA recommends safe handling and preparation tips for poultry. This includes washing hands for 20 seconds before and after handling poultry, prevent cross-contamination by keeping juices from poultry away from other foods, wash surfaces that have come in contact with raw meat with hot soapy water, sanitize cutting boards with a solution of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach in one quart of water.


Always ensure that the turkey is cooked to the proper temperature. A thermometer inserted into the inner most part of the thigh or the inner most part of the breast should read at least a minimum temperature of 165F, which means the turkey is safe to eat. However, the turkey can be cooked to higher temperatures if desired. The minimum oven temperature for cooking a whole turkey is 325F.

For more information on the bird flu go to or



Last update: Thursday, October 29, 2009








University of Missouri logo links to

Site Administrator:
Copyright  ADA  Equal Opportunity

MissouriFamilies is produced by the College of Human Environmental Sciences,
Extension Division, University of Missouri