The company -- known best for its Tyson chicken nuggets and Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches -- said in a statement on Sunday that the outbreak is a "bird health issue and not a food safety or human health concern." Tyson said it is "responding aggressively" to euthanize the affected chickens, 73,500 birds in total, and does not "expect disruptions to our chicken business" at this time. The company declined to comment further.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the confirmed outbreak of H7 avian influenza (HPAI), a highly pathogenic virus, at the Tennessee farm is the first confirmed case in commercial poultry in the U.S. this year.
Tennessee officials placed the Tyson facility on quarantine, plus 30 other poultry farms within a 6.2-mile radius of the farm. All chickens in quarantine are being tested.
Tyson said other precautions it is currently taking include barring visitors from accessing the farm and disinfecting all vehicles entering the area. It is very difficult for a human to become infected from a poultry outbreak and the company said "in the unlikely event that any chickens affected by avian influenza were ever processed, there's no evidence to suggest that any form of avian influenza can be transmitted to humans from properly cooked poultry."
Although unlikely, if contracted HPAI carries a mortality rate of 90% to 100%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After the HPAI outbreak of 2014 and 2015, the U.S. euthanized about 50 million birds. As a result, egg prices in the U.S. skyrocketed. The average price for a carton of a dozen eggs was nearly $3 in September of 2015.