Bird flu outbreak in Ga., poultry flock owners urged to keep a close eye on their birds

It’s the first of the year in the state, according to the Georgia Department of Agriculture and was discovered on a duck farm in Sumter County in middle Georgia.

“For the first time in 2023, HPAI has been confirmed in a commercial Duck breeding operation in Georgia,” Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper said. “Our team of Animal Health Specialists responded immediately by quarantining the affected premises, beginning depopulation of all birds on site to prevent further spread of the disease, and they continue to monitor all other flocks within the control area. While HPAI does not represent a significant threat to humans or the safety of our food supply, its impact on poultry is devastating, and we’ll continue to work overtime with our partners at APHIS to protect Georgia’s poultry industry.”

On November 18 the flock owner noticed signs of neurological impairment followed by increased mortality on Sunday. Samples were taken the next day and disease was identified on Monday by UGA’s Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. These results were further confirmed by USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, late in the evening on Tuesday, November 21.

State Animal Health officials immediately issued a quarantine on the affected premises, and the affected flock is being destroyed by Department staff. Approximately 30,000 birds will be killed in hopes of preventing further spread of the disease. 

Officials will test and monitor any additional flocks within a six-mile radius of the affected premises and no other flocks within the surveillance area have tested positive or experienced any clinical signs to date.

The announcement follows similar confirmations from Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida in recent weeks. Wild birds are the source of the virus. Avian influenza virus strains often occur naturally in wild birds and can infect wild migratory birds without causing illness.

Owners of poultry flocks in the state, hundreds of them here in northeast Georgia, are encouraged to closely observe their birds and report a sudden increase in the number of sick birds or bird deaths to the Avian Influenza Hotline.