ALBANY, GA (WALB) - As the weather gets cooler, the Georgia Department of Agriculture warns all bird owners about the growing concern of bird flu.
Georgia's poultry industry is a $28 billion industry.
When considering the state's budget is $20 billion, a bird flu outbreak could not only affect farmers, but it could also devastate the economy.
Bird flu is a highly contagious and easily spread virus, believed to be carried by wild birds traveling south for the winter.
The virus survives in cooler temperatures and can be spread through bird to bird contact, through contaminated equipment, and through airborne transmission.
Since the first reported case of the virus back in December 2014, more than 49 million chickens and turkeys have died or were euthanized across 15 states in the U.S.
As a result, experts said the wholesale prices for table eggs jumped 84 percent.
And even though there have been no reports of bird flu in Georgia, the Department of Agriculture said they're not taking any chances.
Commissioner Gary W. Black said they have an avian flu response plan that they exercise on a monthly basis.
"If we do contract the disease, we can contain it and control it immediately and hopefully make sure that we don't have the harm come to farm families," said Black.
Experts urge urging poultry growers to practice biosecurity, which means they should make sure they wear protective clothing and sanitize equipment.
"Georgians can note that we take our responsibility in being the leading state in the nation of poultry production," said Black. "We believe we have to be the most prepared."
Common symptoms of bird flu include severe dehydration, huddling, swelling around the eyes, sudden decline in egg production, and sudden death.
If you suspect your flock is infected, you are asked to call the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network at 770-766-6810 or the State Veterinarian's office at 404-656-3667.