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Tennessee avian flu outbreak has Georgia chicken farmers on high alert

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)

MACON, Ga. -- After a strain of avian flu broke out at a commercial chicken breeder in Tennessee, the Georgia Department of Agriculture is on high alert.

Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said that the strain of avian influenza that affected chickens in Tennessee, H7, is a highly pathogenic strain of the disease, meaning it could have terrible affects on affected flocks.

Black said that as the United States' No. 1 poultry producing state, Georgia is keeping a close eye on the avian flu situation. He said that an outbreak in Georgia could mean a huge economic impact on the state in addition to a possible loss of jobs.

He said that the Department of Agriculture is urging all commercial chicken farmers to take extra biosecurity measures to protect their flocks, including limiting contact of non-employees with the chickens, disinfecting trucks that are going in and out of the farms and preventing chickens from drinking from outdoor water sources such as lakes and streams.

Black said that the main carrier of the avian flu is water fowl, so if a chicken comes in contact with water that was contaminated by a duck or goose carrying H7, it could be catastrophic for the flock.

He said it is important not only for large commercial breeders to take these precautions, but small family-owned farms as well.

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