Should I Be Worried About Bird Flu?

Should I Be Worried About Bird Flu?
Apr 24, 2023

By Teresa Bjork

We’ve all been hit with sticker shock lately when shopping at the grocery store. Instead of grumbling over our favorite topic – the weather, everyone is now talking about price increases for eggs, a household staple. 

Retail egg prices reached record highs earlier this winter, due in part to a nationwide bird flu outbreak that resulted in a temporary egg shortage. 

Farmers have struggled with bird flu outbreaks starting in spring 2022 and again in early winter 2022. Flocks in both cage-free and conventionally raised egg farms have tested positive for bird flu. 

Unfortunately, bird flu remains a serious threat to poultry flocks. Animal health experts say migratory wild birds are likely to spread the virus this spring. 

While farmers are working hard to protect their flocks, it’s important to remember that the food you buy remains safe.


Are the eggs and poultry I buy safe from bird flu?

You won’t get sick from bird flu after eating or handling eggs or poultry products. There have been no cases of bird flu from consuming eggs and poultry, says Dr. Patricia Winokur, an infectious disease expert and executive dean of the University of Iowa Carver School of Medicine. 

As always, you should keep food safety top of mind when cooking at home. It is safe to eat properly handled and cooked eggs and poultry, according to the Agriculture Department

Cooking poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured by a food thermometer, kills bacteria and viruses, including bird flu viruses, the USDA says

As an added safety measure, the USDA also inspects all egg products to ensure quality and safety. Officially inspected egg products will feature a USDA inspection mark.


Should I be worried about bird flu?

Bird flu viruses usually don’t infect people, say public health experts. 

The few known human cases of bird flu are rare incidents when people – primarily in developing Southeast Asia countries – are in extremely close contact (living with or caring for) infected birds, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The World Health Organization says animal flu viruses are distinct from human seasonal flu viruses and don’t easily transmit between humans. The WHO classifies the current strain of bird flu, known scientifically as H5N1, as “low risk” to humans. 

Dr. Winokur says public health officials have kept a close watch on the H5N1 bird flu virus since it emerged globally about 15 years ago. 

Scientists have already developed vaccines for the bird flu virus, and there are stockpiles of vaccines at the ready, if needed, Winokur says. 

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