Bird flu shutters fair’s eagle display

If you don't see a live bald eagle in the Natural Resources Park at the upcoming Ohio State Fair, blame it on the current avian flu pandemic.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture's ban on all live poultry shows and exhibitions at this summer's fairs caught up with the DNR's popular caged eagle exhibit as officials take extra care to keep HPAI out of the state. 

A DNR spokesperson confirmed a "no birds" policy in the state fair's popular native wildlife area this year.

"The only live animals we'll have are butterflies and reptiles," said Susie Vance.

She said the division discontinued displays of live mammals like river otters, beavers and foxes several years ago. 

"Logistically, birds are easier. So, we transitioned to all-avian displays," Vance noted.

But HPAI has put an end to that effort, too.

Instead of an eagle, state fair visitors will see signs that inform them of the impact this particular strain of avian flu (H5N2) is having on the nation's domestic poultry and egg industries.

"Avian influenza has been devastating in the impacted states and has taken a terrible emotional toll on the farms that are affected, and on the farm community as a whole. Our farmers and state leaders are working hard to protect our flocks and keep avian influenza out of our state while maintaining a supply of safe, wholesome and affordable eggs," one sign says.

Humans are not susceptible to this particular flu bug – even if they eat eggs from infected birds. But it is deadly to chickens and turkeys themselves.

Beginning in December, H5N2 spread quickly eastward from the western U.S.  Although they do not become ill from the disease, migratory waterfowl are believed to be the main carriers.

Big egg and poultry farms within the Mississippi Flyway were hard hit in the spring.  As of June, approximately 10 percent of egg-laying flocks and more than 7 percent of turkey flocks nationwide were affected.

The end results are higher egg prices and a dearth of turkey products on grocery store shelves.

According to the ODA, Ohio is the nation's second-largest egg producing state and is home to the nation's sixth-largest turkey farm. Infection here could have drastic financial consequences.

Additional information about H5N2 avian flu is available at ohiopoultry.org. and at cdc.gov.

Categories: OhiBlogs, Ohio – Jane Beathard, Social Media

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