Don’t Be Surprised If You Don’t See Chickens at Your Maine Fair
The Maine Department of Agriculture is advising bird owners to avoid exhibitions until the Avian Flu is gone.
What is Avian Influenza?
It's ironic that after the hiatus taken by local fairs due to the COVID pandemic, now a new outbreak is causing organizers to re-evaluate their rules and institute new safety measures, this time due to a virus that's affecting birds around the state. Avian influenza is exactly what it sounds like...a flu virus that affects birds, and can spread to mammals. Hundreds of birds in Maine have been destroyed after becoming infected with the virus already this year, and now officials say it appears it may have spread to some seals on the coast. The instance of avian influenza spreading to humans is very rare.
How is This Affecting Public Bird Exhibitions?
Earlier this month, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry recommended the cancellation or postponement of competitions, exhibitions, shows, swaps, or other in-person events that encourage the gathering or comingling of domestic fowl or poultry after another group of non-commercial backyard birds was diagnosed with the virus on June 28th. The advisory is expected to stay in place until 30 days have elapsed since any new cases of the disease are diagnosed,
In addition, officials strongly recommend that residents with home flocks who are not healthy stay away from any poultry shows. Even if they don't bring birds with them, they could spread the disease on their clothes and footwear. More tips:
- Minimize contact with the birds on exhibit and their environments
- Wash hands on the way in and out of the exhibit
- Clean and disinfect poultry cages between use
- Keep chickens, turkeys, and guinea fowl physically separate from waterfowl at the exhibit and/or consider not bringing waterfowl at all, as they can carry the illness without showing any symptoms
- Be prepared to respond to suspect or confirmed cases of Avian Influenza including documenting show participant information, making a plan for restricting access to the exhibit area, and keeping contact information for state and local veterinarians handy
Finally, they encourage anyone with backyard flocks to keep an eye on the progressions of the virus in the state on the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry website.
The Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs has a link to the advisory on its website. We've reached out to the organizers to determine whether the bird exhibits are banned from Maine fairs or whether they're leaving that decision up to each individual agricultural fair committee and will update this story when we hear back from them.
How Do You Report Bird(s) Who Seem to Be Sick?
Anyone who needs to report sick poultry or unusual domestic bird deaths can call the USDA's toll-free sick bird hotline at 1-866-536-7593.
To report a strange-acting or dead wild bird, call the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife at 207-287-8000 or, if it's after business hours, call the ME DIFW regional office at 1-800-452-4664.