Bird flu outbreak in Henry County threatens Georgia’s Poultry industry

Bird Flu detected at Noah's Ark animal sanctuary
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 6:09 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - State health officials are sounding the alarm after detecting bird flu in Henry County. Officials found the H5N1 virus at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove. For the past three days, several state and federal agencies have been working to contain the virus.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the USDA are on site. The facility is under quarantine.

Noah’s Ark is an animal sanctuary and nonprofit that takes in exotic and wild animals, as well as farm animals. They also rescue many birds. Currently, they have about 400 birds on site.

Crews from the state and federal governments are testing all the birds, as well as wild birds within a 2-mile radius of the facility after several birds at Noah’s Ark, died from Avian Flu.

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A representative with the Department of Agriculture says the facility noticed an unusual number of dead wild black vultures on their property last week. It was then that officials at the facility reported their findings to the state.

The state immediately conducted testing on the dead birds and discovered they had Avian Flu.

While bird flu can be deadly to the bird population, a representative from the Department of Agriculture says there isn’t any immediate risk to people or pets.

“Avian Influenza is very detrimental to our domestic bird population but the risk of spread to animals and our human population remains low,” said Bo Warren of the Department of Agriculture.

CBS46 crews watched as vehicles exited the facility on Monday. Crews would spray down the tires of the vehicles before they left the property. The disease is primarily transmitted via contact with an infected bird’s feces, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A bird flu outbreak is a big threat to Georgia’s $24.6 billion poultry industry. State Sen. Emanuel Jones is a member of the Henry County delegation. He says containing this virus is the top priority.

“Birds tend to be migratory. And if this virus moves from one facility to the next and if it gets anywhere near our poultry poldisable center, it’s going to be a serious, serious problem and a major impact to the economy of our great state,” said Senator Jones.

The Department of Agriculture couldn’t confirm how many birds were found to be infected with Avian Flu but said as part of the decontamination process, many birds would likely be euthanized.

“As our Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary care team provides a safe and healthy environment for our animals, it is standard practice to collaborate with State or Federal officials. Our No. 1 priority is the safety and health of animals and our community,” Noah’s Ark said in a statement to CBS46.

A sign posted on the facility’s front gate says they’re currently closed to the public.

According to a notice posted on the sanctuary’s Facebook page, they will be closed from Aug. 23 through Aug. 27. They did not explain why they will be closed in their post.