2015-09-09 / News

BIRD FLU?

Federal officials to prepare owners of backyard flocks
By Elizabeth Billips

Georgia’s giant poultry industry has taken extra measures to protect itself from the fastmoving avian flu.

But owners of smaller, backyard flocks too often fall through the cracks when it comes to safeguarding their chickens.

That will soon change in Burke County when USDA’s Dr. Koren Custer comes to Waynesboro to discuss the highly pathogenic strain of the bird flu, HPAI, which has already been confirmed in 21 states.

As bird migration along the Atlantic Flyway on the eastern coast of the United States peaks this fall, Dr. Custer is educating Georgia egg and poultry producers on how to help keep the virus from spreading into the state.

That could be a big job.

The virus has already been detected in three of the four major flyways in the U.S.

The Atlantic flyway, which Georgia is part of, is the only migratory route in the states where HPAI has not been found.

While there are still no reported cases of avian flu in Georgia’s commercial operations, the industry would very likely be devastated if the virus were to show up, Georgia Poultry Fed- eration’s Mike Giles confirmed as the flu began making deadly appearances in other states.

Although commercial poultry and egg production is not a big business in Burke County, Extension Coordinator Peyton Sapp said the ripple effect of a single flu-infected bird here could be crippling to the entire agricultural economy.

“If one chicken or duck were found dead from the avian flu, all animal movement could be shut down within a six mile radius,” he said. “This monitoring program would affect farms with pigs, goats, cattle … even show horses. It’s a bigger deal than people think.”

SMALL FLOCK FEARS

Backyard chickens are a particular concern when it comes to the spread of avian influenza because unlike poultry farms, where birds are kept enclosed, free roaming flocks are much more likely to come into contact with an infected wild bird.

AVIAN FLU 101

Monday, Sept. 21 at 6:30 p.m.
Burke County Office Park
West Sixth Street, Waynesboro

The free seminar is hosted by the Burke County Extension Office and Burke County Georgia Young Farmers Association and is open to anyone with an interest in the topic. For more information, call the Burke County Extension Office at 706-554-2119.

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