Can You Get Bird Flu From Eggs and Milk? Everything to Know About Avian Influenza

Very few, in fact: There have been less than 1,000 known cases since 1997 across the entire world, per the CDC. Translation? It’s extremely rare for people to contract avian influenza.

That said, Daisy May, MRCVS, BVSc, a veterinary surgeon specializing in small animals and birds who covers pet care at All About Parrots, stresses the importance of stringently adhering to established food safety best practices regardless. “Both the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) maintain that no evidence exists linking human infections to properly cooked poultry or pasteurized dairy products, but they are emphatically stressing that stringently adhering to established food safety best practices is our foremost preventive measure,” she says.

Of course, health experts always recommend properly cooking meat, consuming pasteurized dairy, and practicing basic food safety guidelines, whether or not there’s a bird flu outbreak.

How could this impact milk?

“Some of the H5N1 infections are making cows sick and reducing milk production, but this hasn’t affected total milk production so far,” says Pekosz. “It’s not clear if infected dairy cows that don’t have symptoms have virus in their milk, but pieces of H5N1 have been detected in commercial milk, [leading] many people think the problem is larger than we believe it is.”

Is drinking milk still “safe?”

“Pasteurized milk should still be safe to drink but the US FDA and other agencies are continuing to monitor this,” says Pekosz. “The pasteurization process can kill viruses similar to H5N1 and tests are underway using the [current] cattle virus to confirm this.

If you’re concerned in the meantime, you can temporarily switch to non-dairy milk.

What about eggs?

Eggs are okay, too. “When H5N1 gets into domesticated poultry like egg laying chickens, the animals die quickly and eggs produced are taken out of circulation,” Pekosz explains, noting that there is currently no evidence of H5N1 in commercial eggs. “As with unpasteurized milk, there are other things in undercooked or raw eggs that can be dangerous to people. Salmonella is one example.”

May says the same: “The likelihood of food-borne transmission remains low when proper food handling protocols are meticulously followed.”

Will this impact grocery prices?

“Milk prices and production could be affected if widespread infection of cows is detected,” says Pekosz. “The situation is changing on a daily basis, but the US FDA is providing frequent and detailed updates on the situation.”

Bird flu has temporarily increased egg prices in the past, according to data from the USDA. In 2022, during which there were several flu outbreaks impacting egg-laying hens, U.S. egg inventories decreased by 29%. This more than doubled the half average price of eggs by December of that year, but prices returned to normal as soon as egg-laying flocks and inventory improved.

What should you do if you live or work with birds?

“I’m urging pet owners, agricultural workers, and everyone to escalate precautions in accordance with all local, state, and federal advisories from animal health authorities,” says May. “Depending on the situation, that could mean avoiding any raw or undercooked poultry and egg products, coupled with heightened safeguarding when handling uncooked meat, poultry, or other foods of animal origin.”

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