A commercial poultry operation in Chattooga County, Georgia, tested positive this week for the low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) strain H7. Reuters news agency reported as many as 18,000 birds have been culled on the farm, although this could not be independently verified.
The outbreak in Georgia follows similar occurrences of avian influenza in the US states of Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee in recent weeks. But the new outbreak strikes in the heartland of US poultry production, as Tyson Foods, Cargill and Pilgrim’s Pride all have meat operations in the state.
Government officials claimed the outbreak in Georgia was considered “a presumptive low pathogenic” bird flu strain, because the concerned chicken flock did not show signs of illness. LPAI is different to the more dangerous highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), but the US state has launched control measures as a precaution.
“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’s commissioner of agriculture Gary Black.
“In order to successfully do that, it is imperative that we continue our efforts of extensive biosecurity.”
Wild birds were said to be the cause of the outbreak at the commercial poultry operation in Chattooga County. AI strains often occur naturally in wild birds and this can sometimes be the reason why commercial poultry flocks are struck down with influenza.
Georgia’s Department of Agriculture stressed that the chances of AI human infection during an outbreak were “very low”.