- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Travel warning for tourists and other travelers driving in the Delmarva Peninsula area — Don’t stay behind flatbed trucks carrying chickens. Delmarva, a coastal area that includes parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, is a fox’s paradise, with one of the highest concentration of broiler chickens in the nation. That attracted researchers from Johns Hopkins University, who found that traveling behind chicken trucks results in high levels of bacteria.

In a study just released in the first issue of the Journal of Infection and Public Health, researchers at the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health drove many times with their car windows open along a 17-mile stretch of U.S. 13 connecting chicken farms in Maryland to a processing plant in Accomac, Va. First, they drove when there were no chicken trucks around, and then made 10 trips behind flatbed trucks carrying crates of broiler chickens, collecting bacteria from air samples, door handles and soda cans inside their car. In all of the truck chases, reported the Associated Press, they found high levels of certain bacteria, including some that are resistant to antibiotics.

None of the scientists studying this airborne attack got ill, and it’s not clear if the germs can even make one sick (that’s the subject of studies down the road, so to speak). The disease-causing bacteria in question are normally spread by food or water, not air.

Still, why do we suspect that someone in state or federal government will want to issue roadside warning signs, “Breathing or touching anything while behind chicken trucks may be hazardous to your health”? And that others will demand pouring federal funds into exhaustive research? But most people will find Delmarva - with its many attractions such as Assateague and Chincoteague wild horse refuges (note to researchers: Study wild horse manure) - a wonderful place that one shouldn’t chicken out from visiting, chicken trucks or no chicken trucks.

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