ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — All poultry shows have been canceled at the Minnesota State Fair and county fairs across the state this year as authorities try to stop the spread of bird flu, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced Friday.

The board has also prohibited birds from being included in swap meets, exotic animal sales and petting zoos.

“We need to do everything possible to get rid of this virus and preventing the commingling of birds from different farms is one way to do that,” Dr. Beth Thompson, the board’s assistant director, said in a statement.

As of Thursday, 87 Minnesota turkey and chicken farms had been affected by confirmed or presumed outbreaks of the H5N2 avian influenza virus, which has cost the state’s producers around 5.8 million birds.

“This is a critical time for Minnesota’s poultry industry, and we’ll do whatever it takes to help. ... We’ll use this as an opportunity to further educate people about the challenges of food production,” State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer said in the statement.

Brad Rugg, who runs 4-H programs for University of Minnesota Extension, said young people will be disappointed that they won’t be able to show their poultry projects at fairs this summer, but that 4-H will explore alternate learning opportunities.

“Part of our job developing the next generation of agriculture leaders includes teaching youth best practices to ensure the health and safety of the animals they raise, and this is that learning being put into action in the real world,” Rugg said.

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