<National Report> The CDC has confirmed that millions of turkeys have been recalled due to safety concerns over an avian virus that the birds may be harboring. The virus is related to human influenza virus but was thought to lack the ability to infect humans. However, it appears that the virus has recently developed the ability to move from bird hosts into humans. The results could be disastrous. In studies done with the newly transmissible virus, it showed similar abilities to infect humans as the avian flu virus that killed 50 million people in 1918. Bob Marcer, a CDC epidemiologist, offered the following quote:
We are in a very hazardous situation here. From our sampling efforts, we know that millions of turkeys that have been sold in the last weeks are harboring this virus. The handling, preparation, and eating of these turkeys could infect millions of people during the Thanksgiving holiday. Follow that with the large crowds of Black Friday shopping and the Christmas shopping season in general, and millions more could be infected through casual contact. We are looking at a holiday season epidemic.
Individuals that have purchased a turkey from any manufacturer are encouraged to call the Turkey Safety Hotline that has been established in collaboration with the CDC and several major turkey suppliers. The hotline is available 24 hours a day at (785) 273-0325. Due to the extent and ongoing nature of the crisis, the organization has declined to clarify if specific manufacturers or brands are safe. Individuals who have purchased a turkey from a source known to be contaminated with the virus will be asked to dispose of it. Individuals who have purchased turkeys from facilities for which testing is still in progress will be put on a call back notification list. As compensation, the National Turkey Producers Association will offer consumers gift cards to either Best Buy, Wal-Mart, or Target for the purchase price of their turkey. The gift cards will be made available to those that call the Turkey Safety Hotline and provide a valid receipt for the purchase of a turkey.
One of the most troubling characteristics of the virus is its resistance to heat. While many viruses are destroyed during the cooking process, this specific virus has shown immense heat tolerance. Dave McBridle, a spokesman for the National Turkey Producers Association, gave the following advice to consumers:
In early testing, this virus has shown enormous ability to withstand cooking temperatures. This makes this a much more dangerous situation. In our food safety laboratory, we have found that only deep frying cooking methods have been effective at reducing the viral load, and even then, by only about 50%. At this point, we can not recommend any preparation method as safe.
Consumers should call the Turkey Safety Hotline at (785) 273-0325 for safety updates.
***UPDATE***: Researchers at the National Turkey Producers Association have determined an at home diagnostic for determining if your turkey is safe to eat. Following cooking by any method, infected turkeys will develop green colorations across the wings and thighs. This is due to a chemical produced by the virus. IF YOUR TURKEY TURNS GREEN IN THESE AREAS AFTER COOKING, DO NOT EAT IT. If it does not turn green, it is safe to eat.