Poultry shows at upcoming Colorado State Fair canceled due to avian flu concerns
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- For the first time in its 150-year history, the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo won't have poultry shows when that event starts Friday.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture told KRDO NewsChannel 13 Monday that the shows were canceled to avoid worsening a nationwide outbreak of avian flu among chickens and other domestic birds.
Earlier this year, the state prohibited all shows in which different populations of poultry could mix, but that ban was recently reduced to a recommendation.
Still, the state strongly advises any poultry shows that don't follow the recommendation, to take bio-security measures such as keeping domestic flocks -- and their food and water -- away from wild birds which started the outbreak in April.
So far, 39 states have reported cases of avian flu and it has led to 3.5 million chickens being euthanized in Colorado; the infection rate peaked in March and declined steeply in May.
The state said that the current outbreak involves a flu strain deadlier than a previous outbreak in 2014, and is nearly always fatal in birds.
Colorado didn't report any cases of the previous outbreak in 2014, the state said -- making the current outbreak more of a concern.
According to the state, southern Colorado has fared well, with only wild birds testing positive for the virus -- and only In El Paso County, and in some adjoining counties to the east.
The state said that southern Colorado has few commercial poultry operations, and that there are likely more people who raise their own chickens.
"Just because we're not having a lot of detections doesn't mean that (the virus) is not still out there, and not a threat," said Dr. Maggie Baldwin, the state veterinarian. "So, if folks see sick wild birds, we're asking them to contact Colorado Parks & Wildlife to determine if they need to be tested. If you have backyard birds that you're raising at home, we're asking for the same thing. Limit the interaction between wild and domestic birds."
The outbreak likely will drive up prices for chickens and eggs, though the state said that increases haven't been significant so far; however, officials expect the outbreak to intensify this fall as wild birds migrate to winter feeding grounds.
"We really don't know what to expect because we haven't seen an outbreak like this one before," Baldwin said. "Where it has lingered and we're still seeing cases. Flu viruses circulate in wild birds all the time -- there are 29 of types -- and when they come together in a certain combination as we're seeing now, they become highly infectious."
The state recommends that individuals who raise chickens at home, also follow bio-security measures as a precaution.
In late April, a state inmate working with poultry became the second known case of the avian flu infecting a human; authorities said that his only symptom was fatigue and he has since recovered.
Some shoppers in Colorado Springs reacted to the avian flu situation Monday.
"I'm concerned about it because it affects every part of the grocery-buying experience," said Barbara Bates." From recipes to breakfast, with everything, you use eggs and chicken."
Christy Metz said that she swallowed hard and paid higher prices during the 2014 outbreak, but isn't willing to do so again.
"I'm not that concerned about the price," she said. "I'm a little more concerned about the health aspect. So I'd consider using a different type of protein. Maybe the soy-based, plant-based kind."