- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois Department of Agriculture is warning county fair operators to take extra precautions this summer to stop the spread of poultry and livestock diseases.

The agency sent letters to more than 100 county fairs urging biosecurity measures. The letter asks local fair officials to adopt a formal plan on disease response or to update existing plans.

The measures are precautionary in response to an outbreak of avian influenza that killed millions of chickens and turkeys nationwide, according to State Veterinarian Mark Ernst. So far no cases of the virus also known as “bird flu” have been reported in Illinois.

But reports of canine influenza are continuing in northern Illinois, and a horse show in Gifford was cancelled last week after two horses from a northeastern Illinois stable showed symptoms of the equine herpes virus.

Illinois was one of the states affected in 2009 by an outbreak of the H1N1 virus, more commonly known as swine flu, The State Journal-Register (https://bit.ly/1dJeJuJ ) reported.

“Anytime you have animals in close confinement and commingled, there’s a risk,” Ernst said.

Mike Maske, secretary for the Logan County Fair Association, said biosecurity procedures are updated regularly for the fair in Lincoln.

“We have a written plan, and every year, we tweak it a little bit,” he said. “We have a lot of cattle shows throughout the year with people coming from a lot of different areas of the state.”

The Logan County Fair employs a veterinarian, maintains a quarantine area for animals showing symptoms of disease, provides hand-washing and sanitizer stations throughout the grounds and sanitizes grandstand bleachers and handrails before events, Maske said.

“It sounds like we’re being a little too careful, but you can’t be too careful,” he said.

The Sangamon County Fair follows state-recommended protocols for ensuring livestock and poultry are disease-free before coming to the fairgrounds and regularly checks on animals’ health before shows, said Jacksonville veterinarian Dr. Joseph Koch, who works with the fair.

Officials with the Christian County Fair plan to discuss the department’s letter at an upcoming meeting.

No changes are planned for the Illinois State Fair in Springfield or the Du Quoin State Fair, Ernst said.

“We’re going to keep watching and monitoring,” he said.

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, https://www.sj-r.com

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