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Aggressive Avian Flu Prevention Steps Announced in Ohio

PHOTO: In an effort to help protect the state’s $2.3 billion poultry industry from avian flu, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has cancelled all live-bird exhibitions this year. Photo credit: lightfoot/Morguefile.
PHOTO: In an effort to help protect the state’s $2.3 billion poultry industry from avian flu, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has cancelled all live-bird exhibitions this year. Photo credit: lightfoot/Morguefile.
June 3, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Avian flu has devastated flocks of birds in many states, and Ohio is taking aggressive steps to ensure it doesn't happen here.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday it is banning all live-bird exhibitions this year, including events at auctions, county fairs and the Ohio State Fair. State Agriculture Director David Daniels said it had to be done to prevent the losses other states are experiencing.

"We felt that we needed to place this ban in place in order to protect not only those flocks but also to protect the consumers," he said, "to make sure that they have got the products that they're used to putting on their plates, in their homes every day."

Ohio is the second-largest egg producer in the nation, and the poultry industry contributes $2.3 billion to the state's economy. The virus was first confirmed in the United States late last year and, since then, more than 44 million birds have been affected.

Avian influenza can spread through direct contact with contaminated materials from infected birds, Daniels said, adding that the state is working closely with poultry producers on prevention measures.

"We continue to find ways that we can reach out and help those producers - whether they're backyard flocks, whether they're in a commercial operation - help them know the kind of things that they can do to help prevent the spread, and even this disease getting its foothold, here in Ohio," he said.

Several other states already have implemented bans, and Daniels said these are especially tough decisions because they prevent young people in 4-H and other organizations from showing birds at fairs. He said he hopes the situation can at least be turned into a positive learning experience.

"Hopefully, they will understand the importance of this as part of that production operation," he said, "that disease management and bio-security are all things that they need to know as part of their project."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is a very low risk that avian flu can spread to humans.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH