Avian Flu and You

High cost of eggs

James Michael Wilkinson
2 min readJan 27, 2024


PETALUMA, Calif. (AP) — Last month, Mike Weber got the news every poultry farmer fears: His chickens tested positive for avian flu, or avian influenza, caused by the influenza A virus.

They had to go.

Photo by Egor Myznik on Unsplash

Following government rules, Weber’s company, Sunrise Farms, had to slaughter its entire flock of egg-laying hens — 550,000 birds — to prevent the disease from infecting other farms in Sonoma County north of San Francisco.

“It’s a trauma. We’re all going through grief as a result of it,” said Weber, standing in an empty hen house. “Petaluma is known as the Egg Basket of the World. It’s devastating to see that egg basket go up in flames.”

A year after the bird flu led to record egg prices and widespread shortages, the disease known as highly pathogenic avian influenza is wreaking havoc in California, which escaped the earlier wave of outbreaks that devastated poultry farms in the Midwest. The highly contagious virus has ravaged Sonoma County, where officials have declared a state of emergency.

During the past two months, nearly a dozen commercial farms have had to destroy over 1 million birds to control the outbreak, dealing an economic blow to farmers, workers, and their customers.

Though influenza A is adapted to birds, it can also stably adapt and sustain person-to-person transmission.




James Michael Wilkinson

Displaced Alaskan trying to make the rest of my life meaningful. I never self-promote, so no initials after my name.