Can You Get Bird Flu From Eating Eggs, Milk and Chicken? Here’s What National Experts Say

Updated: Apr. 03, 2024

At least one person in America has caught bird flu in Texas. With cases rising among livestock that provide common grocery staples, experts explain what this means for our food.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A (H5N1), often referred to as H5N1 bird flu, has been making news as novel cases circulate among wild and domestic birds. While there are outbreaks, they are typically managed to stay confined to bird populations and wild animals.

In the past few weeks, however, H5N1 has jumped from the usual birds to infect dairy cows across four states: Texas, Kansas, New Mexico, and Michigan. A case has also been found in a human who had close contact with dairy cows. This is only the second human case of bird flu reported in the U.S.

But on April 2, 2024, one of the largest producers of eggs in the country, Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., reported that A(H5N1) had been found in chickens on one of its farms in Texas.

Despite the uptick in HPAI A(H5N1) the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls the risk low for anyone who’s not in contact with an infected animal to contract this strain of bird flu. CDC experts stated on April 1 that “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.”

But as cases mount across livestock that provide common household staples in recent weeks, you might have some concerns about your food. Is it possible to contract H5N1 bird flu from animal products like eggs, chicken, milk, or cheese? Ahead, find out what national experts are saying.


Note the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not rule out the potential to get sick from an infected bird. However, it stresses that the likelihood is low.

The CDC explains that bird flu is classified as “highly pathogenic” because it causes “severe disease and high mortality in infected poultry.” This means the animal gets ill and expires too quickly to reach the food supply. Plus, poultry is inspected for several signs of illness before it is processed or sold for food.

Still, the USDA recommends that safe handling and cooking temperature of chicken is always important due to other bacteria that they say are more likely to contaminate chicken, like Salmonella.

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Egg producer Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. revealed in its press release that it exterminated over 1.6 million hens in response to the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak. This was likely a precaution.

The FDA says that like chicken, eggs are unlikely to cause any transmission of bird flu due to the rapid onset of disease and the nature of eggs. The safeguards put in place to protect against Salmonella are said to protect against avian flu as well. However, it is always important to safely handle and cook eggs due to other bacteria.

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For two reasons, the current milk supply is also considered safe against transmitted avian flu from infected dairy cows. One is that milk from infected dairy cows cannot be sold. “Dairies are required to send only milk from healthy animals into processing for human consumption; milk from impacted animals is being diverted or destroyed so that it does not enter the human food supply,” says the USDA.

Second, pasteurization, which heats milk to a safe temperature for a designated time frame, is a process implemented to destroy bacteria in the milk. “Pasteurization has continually proven to inactivate bacteria and viruses, like influenza viruses, in milk and is required for any milk entering interstate commerce,” says the FDA. However, they note that they  “are continuing to monitor the situation” and will provide updates if necessary.

In terms of raw milk, which can be sold in some states, the transmission is theoretically possible, though as yet undocumented. “Based on the limited research and information available, we do not know at this time if HPAI A (H5N1) viruses can be transmitted through consumption of unpasteurized (raw) milk and products (such as cheese) made from raw milk from infected cows,” reports the FDA.

However, raw milk cannot be sold across state lines by law and the FDA discourages its consumption due to other microbes that can be present in it. If you consume raw milk and live in the states affected, you should consider your source.  

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In terms of cheese, pasteurization and the 60-day aging process of raw milk cheese reduce the likelihood that it will harbor bacteria or viruses, reports the FDA.

Additionally, the agency “recommends that industry does not manufacture or sell raw milk or raw/unpasteurized milk cheese products made with milk from cows showing symptoms of illness, including those infected with HPAI viruses or exposed to those infected with avian influenza viruses, even if the cheese will undergo the 60-day aging process.” However, if you question the freshness or source of any food, it’s probably wisest not to take a chance.