State cancels bird exhibitions because of avian flu

By: - March 23, 2022 6:14 pm

Chickens at a research facility in Georgia. (Photo by Stephen Ausmus/USDA)

Iowa agriculture officials on Wednesday barred people from gathering with live birds from different locations for at least a month to help prevent the spread of highly contagious and deadly avian influenza.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s cancellation of poultry events has the potential to affect county and state fair exhibitions, depending on how long the disease plagues the state this year. The state’s order is effective until 30 days elapse without a new confirmation of an infected flock.

There have been five such confirmations since March 1 in backyard and commercial flocks in four Iowa counties that led to the culling of about 6.3 million birds, most of them egg-laying chickens.

Mike Naig, the state’s secretary of agriculture, said he hopes to avoid the devastating impacts of the last highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak that struck Iowa in 2015, which affected more than 32 million birds.

State officials seek to euthanize infected flocks within 24 hours of detection to prevent the virus from spreading.

“Protecting animal health and Iowa’s agriculture-based economy remain our top priorities,” Naig said Wednesday. “It is essential that we take every possible step to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.”

The new order also suspends the sale of birds at swap meets and livestock auctions.

In 2015, the state waited until May to cancel bird exhibits at fairs. This year, the virus was detected in Iowa about six weeks earlier than in 2015. It’s unclear whether that means new detections will cease earlier, or if there will be a longer period of infections.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.