Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)

March 28, 2017

What is HPAI?

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is a strain of avian influenza characterized by high morbidity and mortality in poultry, as high as 100%. Although AI (Avian Influenza) viruses can mutate, at this time AI is an animal issue, not a food safety or public health issue.

Q:What does HPAI mean for Georgia?

A:Agriculture remains Georgia's number one industry and HPAI is a direct threat to its most valuable sector. The poultry-egg industry contributes over $28 Billion annually to Georgia's economy and supports nearly 109,000 jobs.

Q:Does the state have a response for an HPAI outbreak?

A:Yes, the state has a plan for HPAI outbreak. This plan is reviewed yearly and exercised by tabletop and field training exercises multiple times a year. The goal is to contain the virus and prevent it from spreading.

Q:My chicken looks sick. How do I tell if the cause is HPAI?

A:Some common symptoms in birds include severe dehydration, huddling, torticollis, swelling around the eyes, cyanotic (bluish) wattle, drastic decline in egg production, and sudden death. HPAI can cause up to 100% mortality in a short amount of time.

Q:What should I do if I suspect my flock of being infected?

A:Avian Influenza is a reportable disease. Call the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network at 770-766-6810 or the State Veterinarian's office at 404-656-3667 for assistance.

Q:What does depopulation mean?

Georgia's HPAI plan calls for depopulation. This means that the exposed birds would be humanely euthanized.

Q:What happens to the euthanized birds?

A:Proper disposal of dead animals is a regulatory responsibility of the Georgia Department of Agriculture with oversight from the Environmental Protection Division. Several methods of disposal are accepted – burial, incineration, rendering, composting, and landfill. The method used will be dependent upon environmental factors, availability, and disease control.

Q:Could my neighbor's backyard chickens be exposed?

A:Yes, any poultry kept outside is more susceptible to contact with wild waterfowl.

Q:I am a poultry grower. What steps should I take to minimize any risk of infection to my flock?

A:If you have poultry, you should minimize all contact with outside wild waterfowl, with other poultry, and with people who potentially could be exposed. A comprehensive biosecurity program should be established by each poultry grower that provides for control of access as well as cleaning and disinfection. This biosecurity plan should be rigorously followed at all times.

Additional information regarding Avian Influenza can be found on the GA Department of Agriculture website.