Exhibitions of birds cancelled for 2015 due to avian influenza

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship recently announced an order to cancel all live bird exhibitions at county fairs, the Iowa State Fair, and other gatherings of birds due to avian influenza. The Department’s order begins immediately, is effective through the end of 2015, and also prohibits live birds from being sold at livestock auction markets, swap meets and exotic sales.
Iowa has over 25 million birds and more than 60 farms impacted by H5N2 highly-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The purpose of the Department’s directive is to minimize the risk of potential further spread of the virus to other poultry.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Iowa Department of Public Health consider the risk to the public related to HPAI H5 infections to be very low.  No human infections of the virus have ever been detected and there is no food safety risk for consumers.
“We are asking producers and bird owners to increase their biosecurity measures and we feel this is a needed step to further minimize the risk of spreading the virus,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.  “The scale of this outbreak has been unprecedented, so we think it is important we take every possible step to limit the chance that this disease will spread any further.”
Officials with the Department have spoken with leadership from the Iowa State Fair and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach this week to discuss the situation.
“We have been working in conjunction with our state veterinarian to monitor the situation,” said Gary Slater, Iowa State Fair CEO/Manager. “We strive to provide safe and healthy competition for all the animals at our State Fair and know this decision was made in the best interest of our exhibitors and our poultry industry.”
“Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H’s priority is youth and their learning experiences,” said Mike Anderson, Extension 4-H State Livestock Specialist and State Fair 4-H Livestock Superintendent. “Some 4-H’ers will be disappointed that they won’t be able to exhibit their poultry projects at fairs this summer, but we’re exploring alternate learning opportunities to offer them at fairs and will share more details as plans develop. This is a great example to the public, fair-goers, and the consumer that the animal health, animal well-being and the safety of the poultry industry is at the forefront of our young people’s practices. Through our annual Food Safety and Quality Assurance curriculum, we have educated youth for many years on these and other topics such as biosecurity and the potential for diseases to spread.  The education and learning practices are being put into action in the real world.”
The Iowa Turkey Federation and Iowa Poultry Association both recommended that bird exhibitions be cancelled this year due to avian influenza. Iowa leads the nation in egg production and is in the top ten in turkey production.
More information about the avian influenza situation in Iowa can be found at www.iowaagriculture.gov/avianinfluenza.asp.