Helmick takes precautions against avian flu

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick announced a ban Friday on live poultry events including exhibitions like fairs and festivals.

Helmick said he’s making the move as a precaution following the outbreak of bird flu in other states. Helmick said the poultry industry is centered in the eastern panhandle and the population must be protected.

“There has been no sign of [avian influenza] in this state, but we believe this ban is a necessary precaution to protect our valuable poultry industries,” Helmick’s statement said.

The ban also includes sales and swap meets. The state Department of Agriculture is urging farmers to take additional steps to keep any virus from spreading including limiting visitors to their farms, increasing disinfection steps and to refraining from sharing equipment with other farmers.

Organizers of several county fairs have already alerted farmers chickens would not be allowed at the fairs this year.

“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,” Commissioner Helmick said in another news release issued May 5. “Prevention is the first, best option we have.”

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