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JOHANNS: BIRD FLU FINDING IN U.S. WON’T SIGNAL A PANDEMIC; FOOD IS SAFE

BERLIN, March 14, 2006 - A finding of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza in the United States would not signal the onset of a pandemic of human influenza, and poultry remains safe to eat, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns said this week.

“The fact that we identify a case of avian influenza first and foremost — and I want to signal to citizens — does not indicate that there is a pandemic,” Johanns said. The virus is “spreading from bird to bird very efficiently and from bird to human very inefficiently,” he said at a press conference in Germany. “What it takes to have a pandemic is not there,” he said.

He said consumers would have no need to reduce their consumption of poultry if there is a finding of AI.

"Poultry properly prepared is safe to eat,” Johanns said. “Cooking kills the virus.”