All bird exhibitions have been canceled in Ohio for the remainder of 2015 due to increasing concerns of the deadly avian flu, the Ohio Department of Agriculture announced today
“It was a difficult decision. Ultimately we are looking at the effect of the avian influenza on areas like Iowa and this is a step we feel is really important,” said Erica Hawkins, communication director with the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
The avian flu has killed over 40 million chickens in the U.S. and is believed to have been spread by migrating fowl, like geese and ducks, who carry the virus but do not get sick.
Last week, Indiana imposed a statewide ban on moving poultry and other birds to county fairs and other events to keep the flu at bay.
Scientists believe migratory waterfowl carry and help spread the H5N2 avian influenza virus. Wild ducks and geese don’t become sick from it but can spread it through their droppings. It’s thought that the virus can get into poultry barns on workers’ shoes or clothing, or perhaps on contaminated dust.
Health officials say humans are not at risk of getting this strain of bird flu.
Ohio’s state veterinarian, Dr. Tony Forshey, said fairs and other poultry shows have a high risk of unintentionally spreading the virus to other farms.
“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,” he said.
The directors who oversee Ohio’s county fairs and the state fair both said they supported the decision.
“Ohio’s poultry industry plays a vital role in our state’s economy and agricultural development, and we want to do everything we can to preserve the health of Ohio’s birds,” said Virgil Strickler, general manager of the Ohio State Fair.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.