Minnesota bans bird exhibitions over avian flu

(Keith Weller photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Minneapolis | Reuters –– Minnesota officials on Friday banned all bird exhibitions in the state this year, including at the Minnesota State Fair, in response to an outbreak of avian influenza that has affected farms around the Midwest.

Exhibitions at fairs, swap meets, exotic sales and petting zoos must not include birds for the rest of 2015, to minimize the risk of further spreading the virus, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health said.

The outbreak has led to the culling of more than 33 million birds in 16 U.S. states. Nebraska’s governor on Thursday declared a state of emergency, following earlier declarations by governors in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Nearly 90 Minnesota farms have been hit by the avian influenza H5N2 virus since March 5, the state board said. The state’s northernmost cases were found last month in a turkey flock in Roseau County, on Manitoba’s southeastern border.

The risk to the public from H5N2 is considered very low and there is no food safety concern, it said.

“We need to do everything possible to get rid of this virus, and preventing the commingling of birds from different farms is one way to do that,” Beth Thompson, the board’s assistant director, said in a statement.

The ban drew support from officials with the Minnesota State Fair, the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and the Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota.

Reporting for Reuters by David Bailey in Minneapolis. Includes files from AGCanada.com Network staff.

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