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Michigan To Stop Bird Exhibitions Amid Spread Of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

(CBS DETROIT) -- The director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development says poultry and waterfowl exhibitions will be shut down as the state addresses the spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza.

MDARD Director Gary McDowell and State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland announced they are shutting down the 2022 exhibitions effective Tuesday until the state can go 30 days without a new detection of the virus.

"MDARD is committed to protecting the health of all Michigan's domestic birds. Preventative measures are the best and only tools we have to limit the negative impact of HPAI. By exercising this necessary precaution, we can wait for the warmer, drier weather needed to kill the virus without creating conditions that could worsen the problem," Wineland said. "By taking this step now, it is hoped that poultry exhibitors can still participate in fair activities once circumstances have improved."

(credit: Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development)

The pause impacts shows, exhibitions, swap meets, petting zoos at fairs and game bird/waterfowl fair displays.

It does not include or affect egg hatching exhibits, pigeon races and zoos.

Officials say they are working with the Michigan Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, Michigan State University Extension 4-H programs and other partners to notify exhibitors when activities can resume.

"While the stop on poultry exhibitions is not ideal, the safety of our exhibitors, attendees, and animals is of the utmost importance to our fairs," said Lisa Reiff, executive director of Michigan Association of Fairs and Exhibitions. "When poultry exhibitions were canceled in 2015, many fairs thought outside the box to allow exhibitors an opportunity to highlight their projects in unique ways without live exhibitions. Fairs are already planning ways for poultry to still be a part of the fair in a non-traditional way that will keep everyone safe."

HPAI is a contagious virus that can spread from flock to flock, including wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, equipment, and the clothing and shoes of caretakers.

(credit: Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development)

MDARD says it is responding to 12 cases of non-commercial backyard flocks from nine counties across the state.

The department recently announced a case was detected in Oakland County, where the virus was found in a non-commercial backyard poultry flock that contained about 40 birds of various species.

The risk of the virus related to public health remains low, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials are reminding caretakers that whether it's a few backyard birds or a large commercial flock, following a few key steps is fundamental to protect the health and vitality of Michigan's domestic birds:

  • Prevent contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing them indoors or ensuring their outdoor area is fully enclosed.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling birds as well as when moving between different coops.
  • Disinfecting boots and other gear when moving between coops.
  • Do not share equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment and other supplies between uses. If it cannot be disinfected, discard it.
  • Using well or municipal water as drinking water for birds.
  • Keep poultry feed secure to ensure there is no contact between the feed/feed ingredients and wild birds or rodents.

Reporting Possible Cases

For Domestic Birds

Domestic bird owners and caretakers should watch for unusual deaths, a drop in egg production, a significant decrease in water consumption, or an increase in sick birds. If avian influenza is suspected in domestic birds, contact MDARD immediately at 800-292-3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after-hours).

For Wild Birds

If anyone notices what appears to be unusual or unexplained deaths among wild bird populations, please report these cases to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by: 

  • Using the DNR's Eyes in the Field app. Choose the "Diseased Wildlife" option among the selections for "Observation Forms." 
  • Calling the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory at 517-336-5030. 

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