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Texas Ag Commissioner Miller Confirms Cal-Maine Food’s Texas Poultry Facility Tests Positive for HPAI

AUSTIN – Today, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller confirmed the Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. poultry facility in Farwell, Texas has received official notice of a positive test for H1N5. Due to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidance for poultry infections, Cal-Maine will be required to depopulate 1.6 million laying hens and 337,000 pullets at their Farwell facility. This accounts for approximately 3.6% of the company’s total flock as of March 2, 2024. Production at the facility has temporarily ceased as the Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. initiates protocols prescribed by the USDA.

“This is absolutely devastating news for Cal-Maine and the entire Panhandle region which has already suffered so much already,” Commissioner Miller said “Given this latest development, all producers must practice heightened biosecurity measures. The rapid spread of this virus means we must act quickly.”

This news comes after the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed a positive test of H5N1, a form of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), in a Texas dairy worker who had direct contact with cattle suspected of being infected. The individual became ill after interacting with cattle believed to be carrying the virus, exhibiting conjunctivitis as the primary symptom. This marks the second human case of H5N1 flu in the United States and the first associated with exposure to cattle, according to the CDC.

Yesterday, USDA confirmed five new H5N1 cases in dairy facilities, now totaling eleven across five states. HPAI has been found in dairy herds in Texas (7), Kansas (2), Michigan (1), and New Mexico (1). The presumptive positive test result from Idaho is still pending. Commissioner Miller said the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) will continue monitoring and providing guidance to producers and Texas consumers.

Commissioner Miller said consumers should be assured that rigorous safety measures and pasteurization protocols ensure that dairy products remain unaffected by HPAI. Dairies are required to destroy or divert milk from any sick cows.

The CDC has assured the public that the current health risk assessment for the U.S. general population remains low. However, individuals with close or prolonged, unprotected exposures to H5N1 are at higher risk of infection.

“The current risk to the public remains minimal,” Commissioner Miller 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.”

Cattle impacted by HPAI exhibit flu-like symptoms including fever and thick and discolored milk accompanied by a sharp reduction in milk production averaging between 10-30 pounds per infected cow. It is vital that dairy facilities nationwide practice heightened biosecurity measures to mitigate further spread.

Poultry may have no signs at all, mild respiratory signs like nasal discharge or sneezing, decreased feed consumption, ruffled feathers, and decreased egg production.

“Producers need to work with us and report cases right away,” added Commissioner Miller. “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.”

Farmers are asked to notify their veterinarian if they suspect any animals are displaying symptoms of this condition.

For answers to frequently asked questions, the USDA has an FAQ sheet here.

For updated guidance as of March 27th, 2024, from the CDC click here.

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