Every so often, headlines tell us of a forthcoming pandemic that threatens to wipe out life on earth as we know it—and then, a few months later, those headlines disappear and the fear of the disease du jour wanes. It may have been a while, in other words, since you’ve thought about avian flu, but you really ought to keep it in mind.

Not necessarily because it’s going to spread to humans and send us crashing into a Stephen King-like hellscape in which the forces of good and evil gather to battle in the desert (though who knows for sure?), but because of something equally nightmarish: namely, an egg shortage that has officially truncated Whataburger’s breakfast hours.

The most Texas of all fast-food chains announced the move over the weekend on Twitter. No longer would breakfast be served from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m.—instead, night owls would have to stay up until the break of dawn if they wanted Breakfast on a Bun or a Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuit Sandwich, and late-risers would need to set their weekday alarm clocks so that they’d be at the drive-through window by 9 a.m. 

Whataburger’s new limited breakfast hours—from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekdays, and from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. on weekends—is a bummer for those who resist change and are already let down by the ongoing woes faced by Blue Bell. 

The egg shortage is nationwide and is the direct result of an avian flu epidemic that has killed more than 44 million chickens and turkeys in the midwest this year. That’s a very serious outbreak, which has not only ruined the availability of breakfast but has been responsible for the cancellation of all poultry shows in Ohio (and if there’s one thing Ohians love, it’s poultry shows). This outbreak, according to the Iowa State University Egg Industry Center, which is a real place, has caused “perhaps the largest short-term change the U.S. egg market has ever experienced.” 

Losing 12 percent of the nation’s egg-laying capacity is a big deal, and the outbreak is not over yet. Prevention is key, and while many of the chickens that have died are the product of a handful of large farms (one Iowa farm is responsible for more than 10 percent of the dead chickens), chicken farmers are presumably doing everything they can to prevent the outbreak from spreading. In the meantime, those who need to satisfy a Whataburger breakfast craving had better do so in the four-hour window of the early morning hours. 

(Image by Shaine Mata, via Flickr)