Some local county fairs in Washington and Idaho are restricting or requiring testing for poultry exhibitors this year because of a continued outbreak of avian influenza.
Amber Itle, Washington state veterinarian, has recommended suspending all poultry exhibitions, fairs, shows and sales this year because of the continuing outbreak of the highly pathogenic disease. The Palouse Empire Fair, scheduled for Sept. 8-11, has canceled all poultry exhibits.
“Last year, it was the rabbits; this year, poultry,” said Janel Goebel, fair manager. “We will miss our morning wake-up calls and the daily chattering coming from the barn.”
All preregistered poultry exhibitors will receive an email about show information for an alternative form of the show to take place before the fair.
Avian flu was first detected in Washington and Idaho in late April and early May. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the last reported detection of the disease in Idaho was May 24 with a total of 25 affected backyard flocks and 988 birds affected in the outbreak.
In Washington, the USDA said the last reported case was July 26 with 30 total affected backyard flocks and 2,180 birds. All affected birds have been killed.
Nationwide this year, there have been 400 confirmed flocks affected by the disease in 38 states. These include 189 commercial flocks and 211 backyard flocks — a total of 40.1 million birds were destroyed.
Avian influenza can be transmitted from wild birds to domestic birds through direct contact, fecal contamination, transmission through the air, environmental contamination, and shared water sources. The virus can also be spread from farm to farm. Both wild and domestic waterfowl can be infected with the virus and not show signs of disease.
Judy Floch, 4-H coordinator for the Nez Perce County extension office in Idaho, said poultry exhibitors at this year’s fair are required to have their birds tested before they can be entered in the fair.
A testing clinic will be held Sept. 6 at the Nez Perce County fairgrounds in Lewiston from 4-7 p.m., Floch said. The Nez Perce County Fair is scheduled for Sept. 22-25.
“If [exhibitors] don’t have that testing band on their [bird’s] leg, they will not be allowed into the fair,” she said.
There are currently no restrictions on rabbit fair entries, she added. Last year rabbits were affected by hemorrhagic disease but it is now considered a stable endemic disease in the Western U.S. and there is a domestic vaccine available for conditional use.
The Idaho County Fair, which begins next week in Cottonwood, is currently not restricting poultry or rabbit entries, said Susie Heckman, 4-H coordinator for the Idaho County extension office.
“We have sent word and visited with poultry families to make sure their birds are well,” Heckman said. The poultry show will be one of the first events of the fair on Wednesday morning and the judges will be inspecting the birds as they’re entered to make sure they’re healthy.
“We’re just asking [exhibitors] to be vigilant and if their project is not healthy, that they don’t bring them to the fair,” she said.
And if a bird becomes unhealthy and cannot be shown at the fair, that doesn’t mean 4-H exhibitors can’t finish their project by filling out their record books required for the poultry exhibit, she said.