Bird flu cancels exhibitions across Minnesota, including State Fair

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health on Friday canceled all bird exhibitions at county fairs, the Minnesota State Fair and any other gatherings of birds. The bird exhibition ban will remain in effect through December 2015, as the state fights a bid flu outbreak that has destroyed 5.7 million turkeys and chickens at 87 Minnesota farms.

"Taking this step makes sense," said Dr. Beth Thompson, assistant director of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. "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."

The animal health board's decision was made in consultation with the Minnesota State Fair and the University of Minnesota. The directive also prohibits birds from being included in petting zoos, swap meets and exotic sales.

Avian influenza poses no threat to the safety of food, and the risk of the public contracting H5N2 is very low.

What happens to the Poultry Barn?

"For the 2015 State Fair, the Poultry Barn will feature interactive displays and presentations about Minnesota's poultry industry and its huge contribution to the state's economy," the State Fair said in a news release.

Minnesota State Fair: 'Whatever it takes to help'

"This is a critical time for Minnesota's poultry industry, and we'll do whatever it takes to help. The Board of Animal Health has absolutely made the right decision. We'll use this as an opportunity to further educate people about the challenges of food production." - State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer

University of Minnesota extension statement

"University of Minnesota Extension 4-H's priority is youth and their learning experiences. Some 4-H'ers will be disappointed that they won't be able to show their poultry projects at fairs this summer, but we're exploring alternate learning opportunities to offer them at fairs and will share more details as plans develop. Part of our job developing the next generation of agriculture leaders includes teaching youth best practices to ensure the health and safety of the animals they raise, and this is that learning being put into action in the real world." - Brad Rugg, Extension 4-H and State Fair and Animal Science program director

Minnesota Turkey Growers: 'This is the right decision'

"We know the decision to halt poultry exhibitions at our county fairs and the Minnesota State Fair was not an easy one to make. This certainly affects the 4-H kids who plan for their projects all year long, and also means fewer opportunities for fairgoers across the state to learn about raising poultry. However, this is the right decision because what's most important at this point is protecting the health and well-being of the birds that are being raised by 4-H'ers, FFA members, and Minnesota's poultry farmers." - Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota