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Legally Speaking


Issue: April, 2006
Author: Barney L. Cosner

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Wyoming State Fair Monitors Animal Disease

What do vesicular stomatitis, West Nile Virus, and Avian Influenza have in common with E.coli 0157:H7?

Each has had and will continue to have an impact on fairs and shows in Wyoming which serve as a venue for animal exhibits and competitive events featuring animals.

Vesicular stomatitis is a viral disease that primarily affects cattle, horses, llamas, and swine. Leading into and during the 2005 Wyoming State Fair, vesicular stomatitis was identified both in Wyoming and in several surrounding states, which in turn created an animal health concern during State Fair. From this concern, multiple horse exhibitors and llama exhibitors either chose not to enter or chose to withdraw their entries from the 2005 State Fair. The impacts of this disease can reach large proportions when the economic factors are calculated.

The Wyoming State Fair is bordered by the North Platte River on the west side of the grounds and the Wyoming State Fair is held the second full week of August. These two factors provided an excellent base for West Nile Virus' (WNV) main vector, the mosquito, during the past two fair seasons. Due to the potential of concentrations of people and animals, in a nearly ideal setting for mosquitoes carrying WNV, this had a negative impact on the past two state fairs.

Due to the proximity of State Fair Park to the North Platte River and the fact that migratory waterfowl are a natural host for avian influenza, this disease is of concern to the upcoming State Fair just as it was in 2004 for the Junior Poultry Show. The multiple strains of the avian influenza virus, which causes the influenza in domestic fowl, create an atmosphere of uncertainty for the State Fair poultry show on an annual basis.

So how does Escherichia coli (E.coli) fit as a concern with animal disease? E.coli are bacteria that are normally occurring in the intestinal systems of animals and humans. Most strains of E.coli are generally harmless, but there are several strains which produce toxins that may cause human discomfort in a manner such as diarrhea and vomiting. One strain of E.coli, called 0157:H7, can cause severe diarrhea, cramps and kidney damage.

E.coli 0157:H7 creates a major concern for fairs as animals are natural sources and shedders of this strain of E.coli. Petting zoos and animal holding facilities must be carefully monitored as fair guests that are elderly, immunocompromised or young children may be at risk from this strain of E.coli. Fairs are now mitigating risks by posting educational warning signs; by restricting animal contact; by reducing fecal contamination; and by establishing increased numbers of hand washing stations along with increasing the availability of anti-bacterial hand sanitizers for use by all guests.

Animal health and human health are high priority for the Wyoming State Fair and all other Wyoming fairs. Efforts are increasing and on-going to provide an educational, safe interaction between fair guests and animal exhibits for the upcoming fair season. The Wyoming State Fair relies upon the Wyoming Department of Agriculture regulations with the support of the Wyoming Livestock Board to assist in the control of the spread of these health problems. The Wyoming Livestock Board, under its statutory authority in W.S. §11-19-101, et seq., as well as, W.S. §11-20-101, et seq., pertaining to Health and Brand inspections provides assistance in the inspection of animals prior to entering the Wyoming State Fair grounds. These inspections help prevent the transmission or outbreak of known health issues, making the fair a safer place for both people and animals.

Are there additional animal diseases of concern to fair management?

As science becomes more knowledgeable from microscopic related research, we all become more knowledgeable and, in some cases, more concerned about animal issues and their relationship to guests and fair management. It is important that the Wyoming State Fair can rely upon the expert assistance of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and the Wyoming Livestock Board in monitoring and controlling the spread of livestock transmitted disease.

Barney L. Cosner is the Director of the Wyoming State Fair and Rodeo in Douglas, Wyoming. He received a B.S. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Wyoming in 1974; a M.S. in Agricultural Education in 1978; and an Ed.D. in Agricultural Education in 1980 both from Oklahoma State University.

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