- Associated Press - Thursday, December 24, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A ban on poultry exhibitions in Michigan that was introduced in June to prevent the spread of bird flu has been lifted.

The decision to remove the ban came after an evaluation of the disease risk and status of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza - HPAI - outbreak, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development officials said Wednesday.

Poultry and waterfowl shows were banned at fairs and other events in Michigan as part of efforts to prevent the spread of bird flu that has devastated flocks elsewhere in the Midwest. U.S. poultry producers have lost more than 48 million birds in 15 states this year to bird flu. Minnesota, the country’s top turkey producer, and Iowa, the top chicken-egg producer, were the hardest-hit states.

Through October, no cases were detected in Michigan’s domestic birds. But a ban on exhibitions could be reinstated in Michigan if the disease is detected in domestic flocks in surrounding states or nearby areas of Canada.

Similar bans and quarantines on poultry farms that were infected with the flu recently were lifted in North Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio and Iowa.

The virus is believed to be spread through droppings of migratory wild birds, particularly ducks.

“Concern for the possibility of a return of HPAI in the U.S still remains,” Michigan officials said in a release. “Generally, heightened findings of influenza viruses in wild birds will begin in winter and go through spring as birds comingle and migrate south, and cold weather helps keep the virus alive.”

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