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With no signs of bird flu, poultry will return to state, county fairs

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Minnesotans who raise prize-winning poultry have something to crow about. Chickens and turkeys can return to state and county fairs next year.

Nearly six months after the last case of bird flu was recorded in the state, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health lifted its ban on exhibiting poultry at fairs, petting zoos, and other public gatherings.

The ban was imposed in May, at the height of an avian influenza outbreak that ultimately wiped out the flocks at 108 poultry farms in Minnesota.

Public displays of birds were shut down to help stop the spread of the virus. The absence of crowing roosters put a different spin on the State Fair poultry barn this year.

The Star Tribune reports the University of Minnesota Extension immediately resumed recruiting 4H members for poultry projects and training judges.

Bird flu in remission

The Board of Animal Health says no bird flu cases have been recorded in the state since June 5.

Gov. Dayton's annual pre-Thanksgiving photo session with a turkey became a chance to tout the rebound of the industry in Minnesota, which produces more turkeys than any other state.

Of the 108 farms that lost their flocks to the virus last spring, 104 have now been cleared to restock their barns, state officials say.

There were fears that cooler temperatures and migrating waterfowl would reprise the bird flu in the fall. But tests of waterfowl bagged by hunters found none.

An estimate from the U of M Extension put the total cost of last spring's outbreak in Minnesota at $650 million.

MPR News visited the university's Avian Research Center in Willmar, where scientists continue working toward a vaccine to protect birds against what's officially known as the H5N2 strain of "highly pathogenic avian influenza."

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