Avian Influenza has been in the local news many times over the last several months. Bird flu, as it is otherwise called first infected humans in China in 1997. In 2003, a larger outbreak of the flu crossing species barriers caused the World Health Organization to keep a closer eye on it and track the two potential viruses that are able to infect not just birds, but mammals including humans as well. The two strains of the virus that have crossed the species barrier are HH5N1 and H7N9 with possible pandemic threats since humans do not have any immunity to them.
Now, I’m sure you are wondering why I am talking about avian flu this week. As the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent, I work with 4-H and the youth livestock projects. This past week, on June 10, the State of Kansas put a stop on all bird transports in the State of Kansas. This means that there will be no poultry shows at the Barton County fair, and any other fairs in the state including the Kansas State Fair this September. This is to help prevent the spread of the two virus strains (H5N2, H5N8) of bird flu that have now made their way to Kansas by migrating waterfowl this past spring.
If you notice, the two strains of avian flu that have been found in Kansas are not ones that have been shown to cross over and infect humans. The main reason for the stop movement order is because the virus is highly contagious in poultry, and any flock that is tested positive is humanly euthanized to prevent it from spreading. Since poultry shows have many birds from many different families in one small area, the risk of infecting a lot of poultry in a short span of time is too much of a risk.
To provide a way for the members in the 4-H poultry project to still be able to show off their hard work at the fair, we will still be having a modified poultry show. Right now Barton County K-State Research and Extension and the Barton County Fair Board are working together to create a display explaining the ins and outs of Avian Flu and why the decision was made to stop poultry shows in 2015. The decision was not made lightly, but is the best one to prevent the spread of a possibly dangerous disease.
Alicia Boor is the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for Barton County K-State Research and Extension. You can contact her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 620-793-1910