Indianapolis Zoo monitoring its birds for symptoms of avian influenza

(Photo Provided/Indianapolis Zoo via Facebook)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH/AP) — As some North American zoos secure their birds from a potentially deadly avian influenza, the Indianapolis Zoo says it’s monitoring its birds for the highly contagious disease.

Zoos across North America are moving their birds indoors, away from people and wildlife, or monitoring them closely because of highly contagious bird flu.

So far, no outbreaks have been reported at zoos, but there have been wild birds found dead that had the flu, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. For example, a wild duck that died in a behind-the-scenes area of the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa, after tornadoes last month tested positive, zoo spokesman Ryan Bickel told AP.

Other zoos taking action are in Kansas City; Omaha, Nebraska; Pittsburgh; St. Louis; and Toronto. For example, the Toronto zoo added roofs or double-checked mesh enclosures on some of their bird exhibits to keep out wild birds.

In Indiana, avian influenza led six Indiana turkey farms to euthanize at least 171,000 birds in February and March, News 8 reported. In 2016, 11 Indiana farms lost 400,000 turkeys and chickens.

Carla Knapp, public relations specialist for the Indianapolis Zoo, sent a statement to News 8:

“The veterinary and animal care teams monitor the birds in our care for symptoms of disease including Avian Influenza. All newly arriving birds are quarantined to ensure their health before joining our flocks. Staff have participated in workshops on Avian Influenza with the USDA and Associations of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Zoo has a plan based on the severity of the outbreak, proximity to the Zoo, and whether local wild waterfowl test positive. Indiana’s State Veterinarian and USDA will notify the Zoo if conditions warrant activating the plan.”

Indianapolis Zoo

Officials emphasize that bird flu doesn’t jeopardize the safety of meat or eggs or represent a significant risk to human health. No infected birds are allowed into the food supply, and properly cooking poultry and eggs kills bacteria and viruses. No human cases have been found in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.