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The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE May 2, 2006

Discovery of Strain of Bird Flu in New Jersey Prompts Doctors to Offer Vegetarian Starter Kit

Meatless Diets Could Help Stop the Disease at Its Source, Physicians' Group Says

WASHINGTON—In response to the discovery of a strain of avian flu in chickens and ducks in a live bird market in New Jersey, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is offering a free 16-page Vegetarian Starter Kit to worried consumers.

The strain in New Jersey is not the lethal H5N1 strain of the flu, which has not yet been found in the United States. But health authorities fear the possibility of a deadly pandemic if the H5N1 virus mutates and begins spreading easily among humans. PCRM experts are available to explain how a vegetarian diet could help prevent the disease by eliminating the factory farms where avian flu breeds.

Avian influenza develops on poultry farms, where routine confinement, overcrowding, and poor sanitary conditions create the perfect reservoir for viruses and other diseases to incubate and spread. Once a pathogen emerges, it can be spread by migrating birds or commercial livestock transport. As the New Jersey discovery reveals, the United States is not immune. More than 16 outbreaks of H5 and H7 influenza have occurred among poultry in the United States since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Transmission from chickens, turkeys, and ducks to humans is a serious threat. The U.S. poultry industry employs more than 200,000 workers, many of whom come in daily contact with potentially infected poultry and contaminated surfaces.

But a meatless diet helps eliminate the farms that breed infectious disease. Vegetarian eating habits also eliminate animal fat and cholesterol, which have been linked to heart disease, one of America’s top killers.

“The fat and cholesterol in chicken and turkey are two good reasons not to eat poultry products,” says PCRM nutritionist Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. “Switching to a vegetarian diet would dramatically decrease obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. But consumers also deserve to know that meatless eating habits could help reduce the risk of a bird-flu pandemic.”

PCRM’s Vegetarian Starter Kit offers a three-step plan for moving to a healthier diet and is packed with recipes, nutrition information, and cooking tips. Research has shown that vegetarians are slimmer than meat-eaters and have less risk of heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes. To request a copy of the Vegetarian Starter Kit, consumers should visit PCRM's literature store. Nutrition information and vegetarian recipes can also be found at

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Patrick Sullivan

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