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Bird flu scare prompts county fair changes
For now, avian influenza is in check in Kansas
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 In other business Monday morning, the Barton County Commission:

• Approved the purchase of a 2014 Jeep Compass from Marmie Motors for $21,930 for use by the County Appraisers Office. The 2007 Trail Blazer with only 69,000 miles utilized by the office suffered “catastrophic breakdown” that included the manifold, pistons and crankshaft. Given that the repair is estimated at over $7,000, it was suggested that a replacement vehicle be purchased. Appraiser Barb Esfeld accepted bids for various estimates on cars and sports utility vehicles. Specifications included a sturdy, low mileage vehicle with enough space to carry field equipment.  

The old vehicle was worth $3,000 as a trade-in.

• Heard a report from Esfeld who attended the Kansas County Appraiser’s Association annual business conference June 7-10 in Manhattan. In addition to the networking opportunities, Esfeld and two department employees attended presentations on topics including: Fee simple valuation and property rights issues for commercial property; agricultural land values; fracking, waste water disposal, earthquakes and values; and Orion forms and documents. 

In addition, Esfeld was elected president of the KCAA for the upcoming term. 

• Reappointed Stan Jantz to the Memorial Park Advisory Committee. The committee is charged with advising and assisting the commission regarding the care and maintenance of the Barton County owned and Operated memorial parks and cemetery. With not less than five, nor more than seven members, there are three uncompensated positions open, terming in July, 2019, County Administrator Richard Boeckman said.

Jantz held one of the three. The other two, Mic Lang and Margaret Potter, have not reapplied as of yet, Boeckman said.

 For now, the bird flue outbreak that forced the euthinization of entire poultry flocks in eastern Kansas has been halted in its tracks, Barton County Extension Agent Alicia Boor told the Barton County Commission Monday morning.

And, she said, the avian influenza strain, H5N7, has not “jumped” from birds to humans.

“Steps taken have curtailed it in Kansas,” she said, at least for this year. But, since it can be spread by wild waterfowl, “there is no way to really stop it.”

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, said Boor, who works with 4-H and the youth livestock projects.

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, Boor said. The strain that ravaged bird populations in Asia has caused human infections.

“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,” she said. 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 humanely 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,” Boor said.

However, 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, Barton County will still hold a modified poultry show, she said. 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,” she said.

Avian influenza refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. 

In an effort to protect the Kansas poultry industry and to promote stronger biosecurity practices throughout the state, the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Animal Health has issued a stop-movement order targeting Kansas poultry and live birds.

Boor said the bird flu 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.

The killing of the Kansas flocks and the scare surrounding the disease have caused egg and poultry prices to spike, she said. But, eggs or meat that are prepared correctly are safe since the flu is transmitted from bird to bird only through bodily fluids.

Swine are susceptible to a flu virus as well, and steps have been taken to crack down on the spread of this illness. Boor anticipates similar measures be in the poultry business.

It is also possible for song birds to contract and spread the disease, Boor said.