Bird flu outbreak confirmed at South Georgia duck farm

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses (seen in gold) grown in MDCK cells (seen in green). Avian influenza A viruses do not usually infect humans, however, several instances of human infections and outbreaks have

Georgia agriculture officials have confirmed the first cases of avian flu for 2023 at a commercial duck breeding operation.

On Wednesday, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced that they had detected Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) at a farm in Sumter County, Georgia.

According to officials, the flock's owner contacted authorities after they noticed signs of neurological impairment and multiple deaths over the weekend. 

The area was quickly quarantined and began to kill the affected flock to prevent the spread of disease. Around 30,000 birds will be killed.

Officials say the virus does not pose a risk to the food supply and no animals affected by the virus were sold as food.

The risk of a human being infected with avian flu is very low.

"For the first time in 2023, HPAI has been confirmed in a commercial duck breeding operation in Georgia," Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper said in a statement. "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."

Officials say they've also received positive cases of the virus from Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida in recent weeks and believe wild birds are the source of the virus. 

If you own a poultry flock and notice an increased number of sick birds or an increase in bird deaths, call the Avian Influenza Hotline at 770-766-6850.