You Won't Be Seeing Live Chickens at the West Virginia State Fair This Year- Here's Why:
Live poultry will have to stay home from this year's State Fair of West Virginia and the Tri-County Fair held in Petersburg because of concerns that the Avian Influenza that has affected much of the United States might be spread to poultry-producing areas of this state.
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick used his authority to ban live birds from the State Fair, held each year in Fairlea.
"I realize this may be a disappointment to some people, but the poultry industry is extremely valuable and it is critical that we protect it as much as we can," said Commissioner Helmick. "Prevention is the first, best option we have."
The Tri-County Fair in Petersburg didn't need an order. The Fair Board canceled live poultry events on its own.
The broiler industry in West Virginia is centered in the Eastern Panhandle, near the Pilgrim's Pride processing plant in Moorefield. The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) tests every commercial flock for avian influenza, referred to as AI, before they are moved for processing, ensuring that sick birds are not being trucked past other poultry farms in the region.
The WVDA has also worked to identify and educate "backyard" poultry owners about the signs of AI and biosecurity practices to prevent it.
Because they typically roam outdoors, backyard flocks are more likely to come into contact with wild birds that serve as reservoirs for AI viruses and are thought to be spreading the current outbreak. Commercial poultry are housed exclusively indoors, which reduces the chance of coming into contact with wild birds and the waterways they frequent.
Three strains of AI are currently circulating in the U.S. - H5N8, H5N2 and H5N1 - none of which are considered human health threats. Any viruses would be killed by cooking poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit regardless.