- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio State Fair officials are offering alternatives to the annual poultry competition after a deadly virus prompted a recent ban on all poultry shows.

The annual poultry skillathon competition on Aug. 5 will allow participants ages 9 to 18 to show off their knowledge about raising poultry, poultry anatomy, disease, nutrition and care. Officials are offering a higher cash prize of $100 more than last year for the skillathonsince there is no live poultry show.

“We’ve always had the skillathon, but this year, because there’s no live-bird competition, we’re increasing the premiums,” fair spokeswoman Alicia Shoults said.

First place winners will be awarded $225 and a belt buckle, Shoults said. Participants who register by July 13 will receive two free admission tickets.

The changes come after the Ohio Department of Agriculture this month shut down all poultry shows and swap meets for the rest of the year due to the threat of the avian flu - a highly contagious virus that primarily affects domestic poultry and is thought to be spread by wild, migrating birds.

The virus hasn’t been detected in Ohio, but it has led to the deaths of more than 44 million chickens and turkeys in the Midwest.

The Ohio State Fair runs from July 29 to Aug. 9.

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