Tyson Chicken Farm Catches Bird Flu

Gabrielle Gautier, Staff Reporter

As of March 6th, Tyson Foods Inc., the United States’ biggest supplier of chicken, the Food and Drug Administration found cases of avian influenza (aka “bird flu”) amongst their chickens at a major breeding farm in Tennessee. In response to this outbreak, the FDA called for a complete quarantine of all farms within a six mile radius of the infected chickens.

Bird flu is an infection most commonly found in ducks and chickens. While the disease is fatal to birds, it’s very rare that humans ever catch it. However, there have been cases in humans found in parts of China and Vietnam. Symptoms in humans consist of, but are not limited to coughing, fevers, sore throat, muscle pain, and difficulty breathing; none of which is fatal to humans.

Previous outbreaks of bird flu in the U.S have caused a dramatic rise in the prices of poultry products such as eggs and meat, most recently in 2014 through 2015, along with the euthanization of over 50 million egg-laying hens. In Tyson’s chicken breeding farm, around 73,000 chickens have been put down since the infection was confirmed, in an attempt to stop the flu from spreading.

In early 2016, a commercial turkey farm was thought to have traces of the bird flu, however the USDA declared the farm to be safe and the incident did not have any financial effect.

The outbreak has the state of Tennessee calling for an immediate quarantine of all chicken farms within six miles of Tyson, which contains around 30 flocks.

Spokeswoman for Tyson, Donna Karlson, told online news agency Reuters that the results of this outbreak should not affect the quality of the chicken distributed or the company’s reputation.  A different gov’t agency, the USDA, is responsible for ensuring the safety of meat products sold to the public.

According to a Tyson company spokesperson, a bird flu epidemic on one particular chicken farm does not mean that Tyson Chicken is going to make anyone sick and will more than likely not affect anyone other than some very unfortunate hens.

In a time when the President has proposed a budget which slashes the budgets of federal agencies, and even called for the outright elimination of some, some people are worried whether basic safety systems like the USDA and FDA might be compromised.