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No fowl at the fair: State ban comes in wake of avian flu outbreak in Midwest

Sorry, chickens.

The state has ordered a ban on all live fowl competitions at all county fairs in the state and the New York State Fair.

The order is the result of the continuing spread of strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the Midwest, state officials said in a statement.

“Avian influenza has not yet been detected in New York State, but it is a very serious threat to poultry and all breeds of fowl and is continuing to spread. Despite the efforts of the best poultry health experts in North America, we do not fully understand the cause of the rapid spread of this virus. This commonsense step will help limit the spread of the influenza to other farms and chickens,” said Richard A. Ball, commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The ban covers all breeds of fowl, including chickens, pigeons, turkeys, pheasants, guinea fowl, bantam poultry, geese, and ducks.

Exhibitors who have already registered fowl for the 2015 New York State Fair will be contacted and will receive a refund of their entry fees.

“Fowl at fairs come from many different farms," said Dr. David Smith, New York State veterinarian. “An infection in one farm’s fowl could spread easily and quickly to birds from other farms at fairs. If exposure to avian influenza virus happens at a fair, birds returning to their home farms will quickly spread the virus to many new locations.”

While the current strains of avian influenza circulating in the Midwest are extraordinarily deadly to birds, experts stress that the H5N2 and H5N8 strains are not a threat to humans, the state said.

Chicken and eggs are safe to eat, officials stressed. However food safety experts all recommend that chicken must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees and that raw poultry must be properly handled to protect against all types of food-borne illness.

The ban extends to all chartered county fairs and youth fairs in New York State.

Several states have banned poultry competitions and exhibitions at fairs, including West Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Minnesota.

emal: citydesk@buffnews.com