The upcoming Alaska State Fair in Palmer has decided not to include poultry exhibits this year in an effort to prevent the spread of avian flu, officials said.
The first case of H5N1, a strain of a highly pathogenic avian flu virus, was confirmed in Alaska at the end of April and has now infected more than 100 birds throughout the state, according to the Division of Environmental Health.
The virus is highly contagious among birds and can cause illness and death, and avian influenza led to the deaths of millions of birds around the Lower 48 this year. It’s rare for the virus to spread to humans from a bird.
Avian flu has hit eagles and other wild birds especially hard in Alaska.
The state fair, which takes place from Aug. 19 to Sept. 1 at the Alaska State Fair grounds, generally includes poultry exhibits with geese, turkey and ducks.
Fair CEO Jerome Hertel said in a statement Thursday that the decision was made in an effort “to err on the side of caution in order to keep Alaska livestock healthy and food safe.”
The fair will still include the baby chick exhibit in the Craig Taylor Farm Exhibits area because the bird flu does not affect chicks in the egg, fair officials said. The 4-H Junior Market Livestock Auction this year will instead include photos and descriptions of the available birds.
The Tanana Valley State Fair in Fairbanks also chose not to include poultry this year. The fairgrounds are directly adjacent to a migratory waterfowl refuge where the bird flu was detected this summer, officials said in a statement.