Birds allowed back at at county fairs this summer as avian flu cases decline

MADISON, Wis.– The avian flu is dying down just as excitement for fairs and exhibitions ramp up, but the state warns there is still reason for some caution.

The state lifted its order prohibiting freely transporting chickens and other birds earlier this week after tracking no new cases of the highly pathogenic avian influenza among domestic birds since mid-May.

Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection spokesperson Kevin Hoffman said the lack of new cases is a promising sign, but because HPAI is still present in wild birds — the original virus spreaders — people should remain cautious.

“Now is not the time to be complacent,” Hoffman said. “Keep taking those biosecurity measures and understand that the virus is still here in Wisconsin.”

Still, the lifted order is good news for farmers and especially smaller flock owners looking to show or sell their birds at county fairs across the state.

Terry Quam, the president of the Lodi Agricultural Fair’s board of directors, said the news is also cause for celebration among kids who participate in animal exhibitions, something they look forward to every year.

“Agricultural kids don’t have the opportunity like a sports kid to get in front of the public every week,” Quam said. ”It’s a huge thing for these kids to be able to come and say ‘I grew that animal, I raised that animal.’”

He also said exhibition participants are taught biosecurity and how to keep animals safe as part of their training so they are more than ready to take DATCP’s advice.

For their part, officials from DATCP recommend people handling poultry disinfect their cages and equipment before and after the fair. They also suggest people with backyard flocks wear different clothes and shoes around their birds.

In Wisconsin, there are still more than a hundred wild birds that have tested positive for the avian flu, so a resurgence of domestic bird cases is not out of the question but it’s something state officials are watching closely.