The Ohio Department of Agriculture canceled all live bird exhibitions Tuesday in a bid to stave off avian flu that has impacted other states. The effort is meant to insulate Ohio's $2.3 billion poultry industry, the department said. The contagious virus has been found in several Midwestern states but has not yet been found in Ohio. It appeared in the U.S. late last year and since then has infected more than 44 million birds in 197 locations. The ban on exhibitions will impact county and independent fairs, the Ohio State Fair, and all other gatherings of birds for show or sale including auctions or swap meets, ODA reported. Similar bans have been enacted in other states. "This was a difficult decision because it means young people can't show their birds at fairs, but it's in the best interest of an industry that literally thousands of Ohio families and businesses depend on and which provides billions of dollars to our state's economy," ODA Director David Daniels said in a release. "The right move isn't always the easy move, but this is the right move, especially when you see just how devastating the virus has been to other big poultry states like Iowa and Minnesota." Mr. Daniels added that an outbreak of the virus could drive up consumer costs for poultry products like chicken, turkey and eggs.
State veterinarian Tony Forshey said the virus can be spread through direct contact with contaminated materials that came from infected birds. "This means that exhibitions, auctions and swap meets where birds are co-mingling pose a high risk of unintentionally spreading this disease," Mr. Forshey said. "Until we can be sure that there has been no transference from the wild bird population migrating through the state, we need to do all we can to minimize the exposure for our domestic birds."