Georgia’s Poultry Industry May Have Much to Lose from Avian Flu

Georgia could suffer significant economic losses if bird flu were to strike the state’s poultry…

Georgia (Dec 13, 2005) — Georgia’s Poultry Industry May Have Much to Lose from Avian Flu

Terri Thornton

Abstract

Contact: Terri Thornton‚ 404−932−4347 or territhornton@mindspring.com

Georgia could suffer significant economic losses if bird flu were to strike the state’s poultry industry‚ says a leading health economist.

“Avian flu could have a devastating impact economically‚especially in rural Georgia‚” says Govind Hariharan‚ Ph.D.‚ interim chair of the Department of Economics‚ Finance and Quantitative Analysis in the Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University.

Chickens are the largest single agricultural commodity in the state‚ producing over $2.4 billion in farm income annually. Georgia produces the largest number of chickens in the U.S.‚ and even more than many foreign governments. State figures show that if it were a country‚ Georgia would be the fourth largest poultry producer in the world after the U.S.‚ China and Brazil.

Representatives of Georgia’s poultry industry say the risk of infection to Georgia birds is small‚ and emphasize that poultry raised here is safe.

“While the risk of infection in the U.S. is small due to the safety precautions that are routinely undertaken‚ an outbreak‚ if one happens‚ could have major consequences to livelihood in Georgia with such a large concentration of production here‚” Hariharan says. “If the disease is detected‚ countless chickens would have to be destroyed to prevent the spread of the disease‚” he adds. “In addition‚ most of the people who have contracted the disease in Asia have been poultry workers.”

Millions of birds in Asia and Eastern Europe have either died from avian influenza A (or H5N1 flu) or been slaughtered to prevent the virus from spreading. The World Health Organization says more than 130 human cases have been reported since January 2004; roughly half were fatal. While there is no evidence that the disease can be passed from person to person‚ health officials are concerned that the virus could eventually mutate and become more easily transmittable.

Hariharan‚ who specializes in the economics of healthcare‚ regulations and pricing‚ is a member of the American Economics Association‚ and the International Health Economics Association. He has also served as a board member for the Technology and Health Care Roundtables of the National Association of Business Economists.

Kennesaw State University is a comprehensive‚ residential institution with a growing student population of 18‚500 from 132 countries. The third largest state university out of 35 institutions in the University System of Georgia‚ KSU offers more than 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu

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