ASHLAND, Ohio — A highly contagious virus that infects birds has caused enough concern to lead to changes at the upcoming Ashland County Fair.
The fair has banned poultry shows to reduce the risk of spreading H5N1, better known as bird flu.
The virus was detected in a backyard flock in Ashland County a few miles from the fairgrounds. It was also found in a commercial chicken flock in Defiance County.
According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the virus spreads quickly and can be fatal to flocks and devastating to both commercial and non-commercial owners.
State officials quarantined the affected premises and the birds on the properties in both counties and will be depopulated (euthanized) to prevent spread of the disease, according to the ODA.
Fair Board President Marty Wesner said it wasn't an easy decision to prohibit live birds because kids work year-round to prepare the poultry for show. However, he's following the recommendation from state agriculture leaders.
"We are an agricultural fair and we wanted to set a good example of being going stewardships of this type of disease," Wesner said. "We're being safe and protective because we don't want it to spread. There's a lot of poultry in this county."
According to the CDC, there has only been one case in the United States of the particular strain infecting a human. That person had a direct exposure to poultry with the disease.
Marlene Martin, spokesperson for Summit County Public Health, said the risk to people is extremely low.
"Even if a person gets it, at this point, it is not able to be spread person to person," Martin said.
Experts stressed the virus cannot be transmitted through properly cooked eggs and meat, but there is concern that a larger outbreak could further spike food prices.
"It impacts our poultry population and that impacts our egg production and food production," Martin said.
Abby Eikleberry, 14, of Loudonville, has been showing "fancy chickens" that she keeps as pets as well as market chickens and turkeys for seven years.
"I's really a good experience. You get to have responsibility and it's fun to raise birds knowing that you're making fresh homegrown meat," she said.
While Abby is disappointed she can't show her birds this year, she understands the reasoning behind the decision.
"It's kind of okay because the good birds at home aren't going to have the chance of getting it."
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