Grady Newsource Explains: Avian Influenza’s Potential Impact in Georgia

Written by: Valerie Burgos

A new strain of avian influenza has state officials concerned about its potential impact on Georgia’s $25 billion poultry industry.

When the outbreak first occurred in January 2015, the Iowa poultry industry lost $427,000 in production and 8,500 jobs, according to A. Bruce Webster, a University of Georgia professor of poultry science. Minnesota also lost more than $107 million in wages and 2,500 jobs were jeopardized, Webster said.

“If the avian influenza were to break out, we would lose a lot of our export market,” Webster said. “Georgia’s poultry is 20 percent of our exports and if you can’t suddenly sell that export we would have an oversupply, causing chicken prices to go down … but if we have a serious outbreak, then we would be dealing with a shortage in supply … and you might wind up paying more for chicken.”

Webster said the preventative measures taken in Georgia are enough to protect the state from an outbreak. However, there is still a chance this disease may spread if farmers do not follow the preventative measures.

Summary information on avian influenza from the UGA Poultry Sciences Department:

  1. This new strand is highly pathogenic – expected to kill most of the flock that is exposed to it.
  2. It can be transmitted by wind, wild flock and water fowl.
  3. There is no vaccination that will stop this disease.
  4. It is not contagious to humans – only to avian species.
  5. The price of chicken, eggs, and turkey products could increase or decrease, depending on if an outbreak occurs in Georgia and how serious it is.
  6. Chicken and turkey products sold in stores will not be affected.
    • The U.S. Department of Agriculture is monitoring all chicken products to make sure the products sold in grocery stores are disease-free. They are also eliminating all infected flock within 24 hours of their diagnosis, and cooking will kill the virus.
  7. There is concern that will would cause a paralysis of the industry, loss of production and trade.
  8. Various agencies, including the National Poultry Improvement Plan and USDA are keeping poultry farms under surveillance to make sure an outbreak does not occur.

The USDA offers recommendations for poultry farmers at


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