Avian flu a concern at live events

While Rockingham and Augusta counties have banned live poultry shows at their upcoming fairs due to the avian flu outbreak in other states, none of the fairs in the Northern Shenandoah Valley have canceled them, according to Corey Childs, livestock specialist with the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

“All of the [fairs] locally are still playing it by ear … they’re planning to have them and continue with business as usual,” Childs said.

States surrounding Virginia – including Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia and Pennsylvania – have all barred live poultry from state or county fairs.

In recent weeks, the H5N2 strain of avian flu appears to have tapered off from a violent outbreak that began in December.

Since the first reported case, the virus has affected more than 48 million birds in 223 reported cases. However, the last reported case of the virus was on June 17, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Elaine Lidholm, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said the  slowed progress of the virus is mostly like due to weather.

She added that industry officials and biologists are still concerned that the virus could break out again in with cooler September weather and cause just as much damage.

“We could always get it tomorrow … there are always little pockets of the virus remaining in the environment,” Lidholm said.

Childs noted that fairs are preparing for the small chance of a statewide quarantine in the event the virus is detected in the state.

“If something like that did occur, they’d have to be supportive and do what’s best from a biosecurity standpoint,” Childs noted.

Lidholm said the USDA has confirmed that the spread of the disease from the Pacific Northwest was caused mostly due to deficiencies in biosecurity and migratory birds.

“A lot of it was simply sanitation, where people didn’t disinfect their footwear, their vehicle tires or their equipment,” Lidholm explained.

While this latest outbreak of avian influenza did not hit Virginia, Lidholm said that if the virus is reported in the state or the East Coast, then live poultry shows would be canceled statewide.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com