ATLANTA – The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed the presence of low-pathogenic H7 avian influenza in a flock of chickens at a commercial poultry breeding operation in Chattooga County, Georgia. The Georgia Dept. of Agriculture (GDA) said the finding is the first confirmation of avian influenza in domestic poultry in Georgia.

The virus was identified during pre-sale screening for the commercial facility, GDA said. The USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the test results. The birds have been culled, and officials continue testing and monitoring other flocks within the surveillance area. No other flocks have tested positive or shown any clinical signs of illness, GDA noted.

Meanwhile, an order issued on March 16 that prohibits poultry exhibitions and assembling of poultry remains in effect, the agency said. However, shipments of eggs or baby chicks from National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), Avian Influenza Clean approved facilities are not affected by the order.

“Poultry is the top sector of our No. 1 industry – agriculture – and we are committed to protecting the livelihoods of the many farm families that are dependent on it,” Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black said in a statement. “In order to successfully do that, it is imperative that we continue our efforts of extensive biosecurity.”

Poultry represents the largest segment of the agriculture industry in Georgia at 47 percent, followed by crops with 44 percent and livestock and dairy at 9 percent, according to the Georgia Poultry Federation. The industry’s annual contribution to the state economy — including farms, processing, further processing and allied industries — totals $38 billion. The state produces more than a billion broiler chickens a year.