Over the weekend we've been watching media reports of poultry testing for avian flu in Northwestern Chattooga county Georgia (see Test Results on Possible Bird Flu Near Menlo Expected Today), adjacent to the Alabama border.
While there's no official announcement (yet) from state agricultural officials, Hong Kong's CFS (Centre for Food Safety) has apparently already been notified, as evidenced by the following statement issued this morning.
The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced today (March 27) that in view of a notification from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) about an outbreak of low pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza in Pickens County, Alabama in the United States (US), and a notification from the US authorities about an outbreak of low pathogenic H7 avian influenza in Chattooga County, Georgia, the CFS has banned the import of poultry meat and products (including poultry eggs) from the two areas with immediate effect to protect public health in Hong Kong.
Assuming this is confirmed by the USDA and state agricultural officials later today, Georgia will become the 4th state to report this new LPAI H7N9 virus.
While it shares the same subtype name as China's H7N9 virus - this North American Lineage virus is genetically distinct from its Asian counterpart - and is not currently expected to pose a serious human health threat.
H7 viruses, however - even LPAI strains - have caused minor illnesses in humans in the past (see A Brief History Of H7 Avian Flu Infections and NYC Health Dept Statement On Human H7N2 Infection), and viruses can change their behavior and virulence over time
Since it appears that LPAI H7N9 continues to spread in the wild bird population, and may spark additional outbreaks in backyard and commercial poultry this spring, those in contact with live birds should heed the CDC's advice on avoiding infection.