According to a press release from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, effective immediately, all poultry exhibitions, shows, sales (both flea markets and auction markets), swaps and meets in the State of Georgia are suspended until further notice. The move comes after Avian Influenza (AI), or more commonly known as "bird flu" was confirmed on a farm in Tennessee, and investigations are now being conducted on a farm in Northern Alabama for possible AI.

The State stresses that AI has NOT been found in Georgia poultry at this time, but due to the recent confirmations of AI in Tennessee, to minimize the risk of AI in Georgia poultry flocks, the following steps are recommended for all Georgia Poultry Producers, both commercial and backyard, and observe the following:

1. Implement STRICT BIOSECURITY on all poultry premises. Alert all company personnel, growers, farm workers and service personnel of the increased risk of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). Focus biosecurity methods on preventing any exposure to wild waterfowl or their droppings. Keep up your bio-security AT ALL TIMES, especially as it relates to ESSENTIAL visitors and ENTRY biosecurity.

2. All outdoor poultry should be moved into bio-secure housing and any contact with wild birds of any kind, especially waterfowl, their habitat, or their droppings should be avoided. If this is not possible, the Georgia Department of Agriculture should be notified.

3. If you use rendering for dead poultry disposal, please verify that the trucks are disinfected at each pick up and that the freezer area is kept clean and clutter free. If you use rendering pick up for livestock, please do the same. If you visit a rendering plant for any livestock, clean and disinfect your vehicle before returning to your farm.

4. Take the necessary precautions around any congregation points for growers or backyard owners – do not bring disease back to your poultry.

5. Monitor all flocks for increased mortality or clinical signs consistent with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), and report any concerns immediately. The consistent clinical sign in all the current reported cases to this point has been a marked rapid increase in mortality over several days.

6. Enroll in the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP).

7. Please contact the HPAI HOTLINE for reporting of sick birds or for questions related to HPAI. Georgia Department of Agriculture www.ga-ai.org (855) 491-1432; Georgia Poultry Laboratory www.gapoultrylab.org (770) 766-6850.

"Our commercial growers have really amped up their biosecurity measure over the last year and a half since the threat of AI became more real," said Gordon County Extension Agent Greg Bowman. "They are following measures as best they can. The companies they are contracted with are monitoring the situations and using best management practices. But we have a lot of backyard flock people (those who have them for minor farm use or pets) that may not have heard of AI or do not know what to do. The main thing now is to keep your birds away from migratory birds. People need to keep their free range or backyard birds in coops or put up until the migratory birds have returned north."