In an aggressive move designed to help protect Ohio’s $2.3 billion poultry industry from the avian flu, the Ohio Department of Agriculture canceled all live bird exhibitions this year.
The ban includes county and independent fairs, the Ohio State Fair, and all other gatherings of birds for show or for sale, including auctions and swap meets. Similar bans have been enacted in other poultry states. So far, Ohio is virus-free and the move is intended to continue that status.
Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) — also called the avian flu – is an extremely contagious virus that primarily affects domestic poultry and is believed to be spread by wild, migrating birds.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) first confirmed the virus in the U.S. beginning in late 2014. Since that time more than 44 million birds at more than 197 locations have been affected.
Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David T. Daniels said this was a “difficult decision.”
“…it means young people can’t show their birds at fairs, but it’s in the best interest of an industry that literally thousands of Ohio families and businesses depend on and which provides billions of dollars to our state’s economy,” Daniels said. “The right move isn’t always the easy move, but this is the right move, especially when you see just how devastating the virus has been to other big poultry states like Iowa and Minnesota. Ohioans need to do all we can to ensure that we protect our industry and that we help avoid a costly spike in the price of important foods like chicken, turkey and eggs.”
Ohio is the second-largest egg producer in the country and home to 28 million laying chickens, 12 million broilers, 8.5 million pullets and 2 million turkeys. Ohio’s egg, chicken and turkey farms employ more than 14,600 jobs and contribute $2.3 billion to the state’s economy. Ohio’s role in national poultry production is even greater considering the loss that other major poultry states are experiencing.
“One of the ways avian influenza spreads is by direct contact with contaminated materials coming from other infected birds,” said state veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey. “This means that exhibitions, auctions and swap meets where birds are co-mingling pose a high risk of unintentionally spreading this disease. Until we can be sure that there has been no transference from the wild bird population migrating through the state, we need to do all we can to minimize the exposure for our domestic birds.”
Similar concern about the potential spread of disease that can happen when birds are brought together for shows and sales has caused Ohio’s neighboring states of Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan to make the decision to cancel shows for at least the 2015 fair season. Of those states, only Indiana has had a flock test positive for HPAI.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture says it is working closely with the state’s poultry producers and the USDA APHIS to provide training and to closely monitor the health of poultry in the state. Detailed plans and protocols are in place to allow for a quick and coordinated response in the event HPAI is detected in Ohio.