Chattooga County has recorded the first confirmed case of Avian Flu in Georgia. The outbreak was detected at a commercial breeder farm in Chattooga County where the flock of chickens tested positive for H7, ‘presumptive’ low-pathogenic strain of the bird flu.

The flu strain is currently being tested at this point and the culture is still growing. Once it is grown, the public will be notified which strain has entered the state, LPAI  or HPAI.

The breeder farm is located in Menlo, Georgia and is associated with Koch Foods. The Georgia Department of Agriculture did their due diligence and destroyed 18,000.

The breeder houses will remain empty while undergoing a sterilization process designed and approved by the CDC and Department of Agriculture. This process could take several months and will ensure that, once completed, the poultry farm can resume business free of the virus.

Agriculture is the number one industry in the state of Georgia and the Poultry business, over $28 billion, is the top tier in that industry. Georgia leads the nation in poultry production and, if Georgia were a country, it would be the 7th largest producer of broiler chicken in the world. Chattooga is one of 102 counties in the state that produces more than $1 million dollars in annual poultry production. With a 40% increase in poultry production in the past three years, Chattooga continues to invest in resources and infrastructure to support poultry farmers.

State officials from the Department of Agriculture have set a quarantine zone around the Menlo area farm and will be monitoring all “back yard” foul within a 2-mile radius of the affected breeder houses. “Officials are testing and monitoring other flocks within the surveillance area and no other flocks have tested positive or experienced any clinical signs,” the department said.

It is important to note that the Avian flu does not affect the food supply in any way and no affected birds have entered the food chain. Below are some safety tips for backyard breeders, but most importantly just be observant of your birds:

chicken safety

“Poultry is the top sector of our number one industry, agriculture, and we are committed to protecting the livelihoods of the many farm families that are dependent on it,” said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black. “In order to successfully do that, it is imperative that we continue our efforts of extensive biosecurity.”

A portion of that biosecurity effort is a continuation of the indefinite ban on poultry shows, exhibitions, swaps, flea markets or auctions.

Poultry is important to Northwest Georgia and measures are in place to reduce producers’overall risk of bird flu.

Heightened surveillance was put into place within a 6.2-mile radius of the farm and there’s an enhanced level of biosecurity. Every commercial farmer around the affected farm will be tested.

Information regarding the state’s infection and buffer zones can be viewed on the state agriculture web site. 

Many people become concerned over the extremely rare cases when Avian Flu finds its way into a human host. And the possibility of a mutation allowing the virus to spread from human to human is part of the heightened level of security surrounding the disease. The 2015 outbreak of HPAI in the Midwest led to the loss of over 55 million birds. With a mortality rate between 90-100% in chickens, the High Pathogenic form of the virus came no closer than Ohio but poultry farmers are reasonably worried that this expansion of the Low Pathogenic form is a sign of much worse things to come in the years ahead.

Common Public Safety Concerns regarding the bird flu:

Can humans contract avian influenza?

The risk of contracting avian influenza from birds is extremely low. Avian influenza viruses do not usually infect humans. There have been rare cases of avian influenza cross-infection in humans, which were the result of very close physical contact with the infected birds or with the secretions and feces of infected birds.

Can someone contract avian influenza from eating poultry meat or eggs?

You cannot get avian influenza from poultry meat and eggs that have been properly cooked. It has been proven that proper cooking will destroy avian influenza virus. Further, all commercial poultry flocks in the US are tested for avian influenza virus. Meat or egg products from infected flocks are prohibited from entering the market.

What are the symptoms of avian influenza?

Sudden increase in bird mortality • Nasal discharge • Coughing, sneezing • Watery or green diarrhea • Lethargy • Swelling around the eyes, neck and head • Purple discoloration of wattles, combs and legs • Incoordination or paralysis • Twisting of the head/neck down under the body in turkeys • Sudden, severe drop in feed and water consumption • Sudden, severe drop in egg production