Ask Dr. Manny: Enjoy Turkey Without Fear on Thanksgiving

It was just a few days ago, with Thanksgiving quickly approaching, that I ended my journey home from work, grabbed my bags, shut the car door and entered my house.

The moment I stepped in through the doorway, I could sense there was something wrong, something missing. The holiday season being just around the corner, the house is usually a swarm of activity. Preparations for the grand annual Thanksgiving family feast were usually well under way by this time, with most of the details attended to well prior to our Thanksgiving dinner. During past seasons, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation for all the trappings of a grand meal and a joyous time with friends and family. I could not imagine what circumstances could bring about such a drastic change in the grand old tradition of our family’s Thanksgiving.

Under normal circumstances, it was the aroma of homemade pumpkin and custard pies which would draw me towards the kitchen where my wife would be putting her signature stamp on this traditional holiday meal. Not so on this occasion. She appeared moody and aloof, without much excitement in her manner. She looked troubled and upset. Her eyes reflected serious concern when I asked her what the trouble was.

“I don’t know what to do” she said. “With all this talk of avian flu, I’m not sure if it’s safe to serve turkey to our guests.”

I was dumbfounded. I thought I had heard everything, but this really threw me for a loop. My response was measured, as I did not wish to increase her anxiety about her thoughts of turkey and the possible connection to avian flu. It was then I realized what needed to be done. I refused to have this family tradition go by the wayside because of misinformation. I called a family meeting.

Everyone gathered round, even the dog. I had heard some crazy questions since the possibility of an avian flu pandemic had reared its’ head in Asia. I wanted my family to understand the facts on this virus and I told them of the many varied and wild questions that were circulating among normal, intelligent people.

Can you get bird flu from eating turkey?

The answer is no. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that there has been no evidence of avian flu being transmitted through cooked poultry or poultry products.

Are there any cases of bird flu in the U.S.?

There have been no reported cases of avian flu in people in the U.S.

How do we prevent getting sick from a Thanksgiving meal?

Turkey meat should be cooked so that the internal temperature is at 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep food counters clean and always wash your hands.

I knew, after our family session, that our traditional Thanksgiving holiday was back on track. The excitement, the anticipation, the joy were all back in place, as it should be.

The tradition had been preserved. Our family will be together as I pray and hope yours will be also. We will enjoy a bountiful harvest with family, good friends and good will. We will share this harvest with the less fortunate, not just during the season, but year round. Let’s remember what the traditional Thanksgiving was about: Two alien tribes bonded by their will to survive incredible odds with shared sacrifice, a bond of humanity divinely inspired.

Oh, by the way, we are going to have turkey for Thanksgiving. A big, beautiful bird with all the traditional trimmings. I will carve and serve the bird to our guests, as I always have. We will revel in the festive atmosphere and ease into the warm afterglow of an end to a wonderful day in the most traditional sense. Keep the tradition alive. God bless and Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Ask Dr. Manny

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FOX News medical contributor Dr. Manny Alvarez is the Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J., and is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. He appears on FNC's daytime programs FOX & Friends and FOX News Live.