Largest fresh egg producer in US finds bird flu in chickens at Texas, Michigan plants

FILE - Chickens gather around a feeder at a farm.

One of the largest fresh egg producers in the United States has stopped production at its Texas plant after bird flu was found among their flock. Officials also said the virus was detected at its poultry facility in Michigan. 

Cal-Maine Foods, which is based in Mississippi, said that approximately 1.6 million laying hens and 337,000 pullets, which makes up about 3.6% of its total flock, were destroyed after the infection was found in their Pramer County, Texas facility. 

"The Company continues to work closely with federal, state and local government officials and focused industry groups to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks and effectively manage the response," according to a statement released on Tuesday. 

"Cal-Maine Foods is working to secure production from other facilities to minimize disruption to its customers," the statement said. 

The company said there is no known bird flu risk associated with eggs that are currently in the market and no eggs have been recalled. 

Eggs that are properly handled and cooked are safe to eat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Cal-Maine’s announcement comes a day after state health officials said a person was diagnosed with bird flu after they were in contact with cows presumed to be infected. 

The risk to the public remains low as this is a rare occurrence. 

Dairy cows in Texas and Kansas were reported to be infected with bird flu last week — and federal agriculture officials later confirmed infections in a Michigan dairy herd that had recently received cows from Texas.

Human bird flu case in Texas

The human case in Texas marks the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal, federal health officials said. 

The infection was tied to the recent discovery of the virus in dairy cows.

The patient was being treated with an antiviral drug and their only reported symptom was eye redness. 

The virus has been found in hundreds of mammal species globally in recent years. 

This bird flu was first identified as a threat to people during a 1997 outbreak in Hong Kong. More than 460 people have died in the past two decades from bird flu infections, according to the World Health Organization. 

The vast majority of infected people got it directly from birds, but scientists have been on guard for any signs of spread among people. 

It’s only the second time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. 

Texas officials didn’t identify the newly infected person, nor release any details about what brought them in contact with the cows. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.