Georgia acts to protect chicken industry after bird flu outbreaks

Reports of a deadly strain of avian flu in other states has put Georgia poultry growers on alert.  BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

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Reports of a deadly strain of avian flu in other states has put Georgia poultry growers on alert. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

State Department of Agriculture asks growers to take safety precautions

An outbreak of bird flu could disrupt the supply of fresh poultry if it spreads through Georgia.

A deadly strain of Avian Influenza has been found on a commercial turkey farm in Indiana, a chicken operation in Kentucky and in a backyard flock in Virginia.

Georgia boasts a $4 billion industry and is the nation’s top producer of broiler chickens. The Georgia Department of Agriculture says there are reports of infected wild birds in Hart County, Georgia, but not in its chicken flocks.

The department on Wednesday suspended the sale of live chickens at trades shows, flea markets and other outlets. It called on growers to implement biosecurity practices to protect their flocks, such as keeping birds inside, limiting their exposure to outdoor water sources and maintaining sanitation.

This strain of the bird flu is highly contagious and deadly to poultry, which is Georgia’s most lucrative farming sector.

No human cases of the virus have been found in the U.S., the USDA said.

State officials are quarantining the infected operations in Kentucky and Indiana and killing and disposing of the birds to prevent spread of the disease. Agriculture officials said the flu does not present a food safety risk if chickens or eggs are handled and cooked properly.

Any cases of bird flu should be reported to the Georgia Avian Influenza hotline at (770) 766-6850.