ATLANTA — The Georgia Department of Agriculture and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on Nov. 22 announced a commercial duck breeding operation located in Sumter County, Ga., has tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza. This is the first confirmation of HPAI in a commercial waterfowl flock in Georgia. Avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply, and no affected animals entered the food chain. The risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low.
“For the first time in 2023, HPAI has been confirmed in a commercial duck breeding operation in Georgia,” said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper. “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 Nov. 18 the flock owner noticed signs of neurological impairment followed by increased mortality on Nov. 19. Samples were taken and HPAI was identified on Nov. 20 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 Nov. 21.
Animal health officials with the department immediately issued a quarantine on the affected premises, and the affected flock is being depopulated by GDA staff. Approximately 30,000 birds were depopulated to prevent further spread of the disease.
Officials tested and monitored additional flocks within a 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) radius of the affected premises and no other flocks within the surveillance area have tested positive or experienced any clinical signs to date. APHIS is working closely with the GDA’s animal health staff to monitor the situation and prevent further spread of the disease.
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.
Georgia owners of poultry flocks 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 at 770-766-6850.