From one reported transmission to a human and a multi-state outbreak among dairy cows, the agriculture industry is on high alert for possible cases of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza — aka bird flu. 

There have been no reported cases of HPAI in Georgia among people or dairy cows since traces of the virus were found in pasteurized milk last month. The full virus has not been detected in Georgia poultry since last year.

But state agencies here are still prepared, and proceeding with caution. 

“Our team at the department has been in constant communication with dairy producers in Georgia,” said Matthew Agvent, spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Because Georgia is still a low-risk state, there are no state mandates for testing dairy cows or humans, Agvent said, though the department has been testing a number of milk samples, all of which have been negative. 

Instead, there are only guidelines centered around what the department calls biosecurity, or enhanced protections against infection spread. 

“Eliminating unnecessary movement of animals, eliminating visits from all nonessential personnel to the farm, ensuring that any trucks or vehicles that are coming on to the property are disinfected and cleaned both before they enter the property and again when they leave,” were all steps Agvent said were taken, along with following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect workers. 

However, there is a federal testing mandate on lactating dairy cows moving across state lines — a mandate issued around the same time the federal government recently came under fire for a lag in testing of farm workers. 

Agvent said for the most part, farmers in Georgia were already prepared with safety measures to prevent transmission, since the poultry industry is such an economic driver and HPAI typically affects chickens. 

We really are ahead of the curve because of that,” Agvent said. 

So far, both the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Department of Agriculture say consumers should not be concerned about contamination in either pasteurized milk products, or cooked poultry. 

DPH also said that in the case of human infection, the agency is prepared for “rapid communication, monitoring and testing of exposed workers, and providing access to Tamiflu should it become necessary,” according to spokesperson Nancy Nydam.