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Bird flu in Texas: Largest US egg producer temporarily shutters facility after H5N1 virus found in chickens

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The largest producer of fresh eggs in the United States says it has temporarily closed one of its facilities in Texas after highly pathogenic avian influenza, otherwise known as H5N1 bird flu, wiped out nearly two million birds. 

Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. said one of its facilities in Parmer County “tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza, resulting in depopulation of approximately 1.6 million laying hens and 337,000 pullets, or approximately 3.6% of the Company’s total flock as of March 2, 2024.” 

“Production at the facility has temporarily ceased as the Company follows the protocols prescribed by the USDA,” it added, noting there is “no known risk related to HPAI associated with eggs that are currently in the market and no eggs have been recalled.” 

The development comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday that a person in Texas tested positive for the bird flu. 

RARE HUMAN CASE OF HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS BIRD FLU CONFIRMED IN TEXAS 

“This person had exposure to dairy cattle in Texas presumed to be infected with HPAI A(H5N1) viruses. The patient reported eye redness (consistent with conjunctivitis), as their only symptom, and is recovering,” the CDC said in a statement. “The patient was told to isolate and is being treated with an antiviral drug for flu.” 

The CDC said this is the second case of a human testing positive for H5N1 in the United States, after a previous case was observed in Colorado in 2022. 

PRICE OF EGGS REMAINS HIGHER THAN USUAL  

“This infection does not change the H5N1 bird flu human health risk assessment for the U.S. general public, which CDC considers to be low,” it added. “However, people with close or prolonged, unprotected exposures to infected birds or other animals (including livestock), or to environments contaminated by infected birds or other animals, are at greater risk of infection.” 

Dairy cows in Texas and Kansas were reported to have been infected with bird flu last week, according to The Associated Press. 

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Meanwhile, Cal-Maine Foods says it is “working to secure production from other facilities to minimize disruption to its customers” and is in close coordination “with federal, state and local government officials and focused industry groups to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks and effectively manage the response.” 

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