Chicken and other poultry won’t be allowed at the Johnson County Fair this year.
Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Jackie McClasky issued a stop movement order last week, canceling all poultry related shows and events in Kansas
through the end of the year.
The Johnson County Fair will run from July 27 to Aug. 1 this year.
“What they’re trying to do is prevent H5N2 from spreading,” Adele Wilcoxen, public information coordinator for Johnson County K-State Research and Extension Office, said.
The highly contagious form of avian flu first surfaced last March in southwest Missouri, and backyard chickens and ducks tested positive for the virus in Basehor, Kan., in mid-March.
Agriculture officials created quarantine zones, tested and destroyed infected birds.
State agriculture officials on June 9 canceled poultry shows including regional and county fairs, festivals, swap meets and exotic sales and live bird auctions.
Dr. Justin Smith, Kansas Deputy Animal Health Commissioner said in a press release that the decision was not made lightly.
“The decision to issue movement restrictions regarding poultry and bird events has been made in an effort to protect the poultry industry in Kansas and the economic contribution that the industry makes to our agricultural economy,” Smith said. “It is a difficult decision, as I know youth and adults would soon be exhibiting their projects at local fairs.”
The stop movement order means 4-H youth who have spent months raising chickens will not be able to show and sell the fowl during the county fair next month.
Wilcoxen said county and state fair officials are working to come up with an alternate way for the 4-H competitors to be involved in the county and state fair this year. In Johnson County, there are 19 youths enrolled in the 4-H poultry project.
“(The fair) is typically a cacophony of chickens, ducks and turkeys,” Wilcoxen said. “Normally part of (4-Her)’s project is they have to present for showmanship their chickens. We’re inthe process of trying to figure out whether they can make photo presentations or posters or something else to take place this year.”
Typically, those who win at the county fair, then go on to show their prize winning fowl at the state fair in Hutchinson in September. The stop order will prohibit that competition, too.
Wilcoxen said fair officials hope to have an alternate plan for chicken competition weeks prior to the Johnson County Fair.
“You have all these entities working together to find a solution,” she said.
The risk of transmission from chickens to humans is low, and so far, there have been no cases during this outbreak of H5N2 infecting humans. Infected birds typically die on their own within 48 hours. Federal officials have worked to keep infected birds and eggs out of the food supply, though cooking poultry thoroughly eliminates the risk of transmission.
Smith said the stop movement is unfortunate.
“This decision was not made lightly,” he said “But it is necessary we do everything possible to protect the Kansas poultry flock.”
State officials are asking local poultry owners and producers to carefully monitor their flocks for symptoms of the virus and notify the Kansas Department of Agriculture if problems are suspected.
All bird owners should prevent contact between their birds and other birds, including wild fowl.