Texas poultry facility ordered to cull more than 1 million hens amid new bird flu cases

By Chris Benson
The first human case of bird flu in Texas was reported Monday following exposure to infected dairy cattle. File Photo by Bill Greenblat/UPI
The first human case of bird flu in Texas was reported Monday following exposure to infected dairy cattle. File Photo by Bill Greenblat/UPI | License Photo

April 2 (UPI) -- Production at a Texas poultry facility stopped Tuesday amid new cases of the bird flu, the state's agriculture commissioner confirmed.

"The rapid spread of this virus means we must act quickly," Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said in a statement on the H5N1 virus -- also known as bird flu.


The state said that the Farwell-based poultry facility Cal-Maine Foods Inc. has been ordered to de-populate 1.6 million laying hens as well as 337,000 pullets -- or young female chickens -- which account for over 3% of Cal-Maine's total flock at their Parmer County, Texas, facility near the New Mexico border.

"This is absolutely devastating news for Cal-Maine and the entire Panhandle region, which has already suffered so much already," said Miller. "Given this latest development, all producers must practice heightened biosecurity measures.

The first human case of bird flu was reported in Texas on Monday following exposure to infected cattle.

That came the same day USDA confirmed five new bird flu cases in dairy facilities across five states: Texas with 7 cases, Kansas with 2, Michigan with 1 case, and New Mexico with 1 case, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Miller said Texas consumers should be assured that "rigorous safety measures and pasteurization protocols ensure that dairy products remain unaffected."

"The current risk to the public remains minimal," he emphasized. "It is important for us as an industry to maintain a high level of vigilance. State and national agencies will continue to provide updated guidance as developments warrant."

Last year, researchers said combating the bird flu will require an urgent national coordinated response.

According to the CDC's "current situation summary," H5N1 in the United States reports 2 cases in humans, "widespread" detections with "sporadic outbreaks" in poultry flocks, "sporadic infections" in mammals.

The CDC added there is a "low" public health risk and no person-to-person spread reported.

Texas' agriculture department asked farmers to notify veterinarians if animals display any CDC-designated symptoms, adding how it is "vital" for American dairy facilities to "practice heightened biosecurity measures to mitigate further spread."

In February 2023, cases of the bird flew got to Santa Barbara County, Calif. That October, the bird flu had hit two Iowa farms.

"Producers need to work with us and report cases right away," urged Miller, the elected Republican agriculture commissioner since 2015. "Transparency is going to be key to navigating and mitigating this outbreak."


"I encourage producers to work with state and national officials to report any symptomatic animals as soon as you identify them," Miller said.

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