Ga. Department of Agriculture suspends congregation of fowl amid avian flu fears

After a strain of avian flu broke out at a commercial chicken breeder in Tennessee, the Georgia Department of Agriculture is on high alert / Eric Mock (WGXA)

ATLANTA, Ga. -- After avian flu outbreaks among chicken flocks in Tennessee and Alabama, the Georgia Department of Agriculture has ordered an immediate suspension of various methods of poultry sale.

A release from the Department of Agriculture states that the suspension applies to all poultry exhibitions, shows, sales, swaps and meets in Georgia.

Robert Cobb, the Georgia State Veterinarian who wrote the release, said chicken farmers can still sell chickens on eggs on private property. The suspension is on events where chicken of different flocks would interact, possibly spreading the disease.

Local chicken farmer Aubrey Heil said he can see the benefits of the suspension for the industry, but isn't sure how it can be enforced easily. Heil also said he takes high precautions on his farm to ensure the health of his chickens.

"For the most part they stay here with us and when they go to their new homes they go individual and it's a one-way street," Heil said. "When we do sell poultry to other people we let them know that they can't return a bird."

Julia McPeake, chief communications officer at the Georgia Department of Agriculture, said that she is not aware of any organized enforcement of this suspension, those that continue to participate in these activities are doing so at their own risk and at the risk of Georgia's multi-billion dollar poultry industry.

She said that if there were to be an avian flu outbreak in Georgia, it could have a massive economic impact in the state. However, the public should not have concerns about purchasing chickens and eggs in Georgia.

"You are right on the money when you say this is a poultry disease, poultry production disease," Cobb said. "This is not a food safety issue and this is not a public health issue."

Georgia's poultry market is worth almost $28 billion.

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