The zoos, which have large populations of exotic birds, are taking action to prevent the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza, which can be deadly for birds that contract it. A spokesperson for the Topeka Zoo said that a full list of measures that they are taking to protect their birds will be released later today. The Kansas City Zoo has also moved their bird species over concerns of HPAI.
The Trumpeter swans at the Topeka Zoo are of the greatest concern to zoo officials. To discourage wild waterfowl from coming to the zoo’s ponds, the use of coin feeders has been discontinued for the time being. Zoo staff will also take precautions like changing work shoes when entering different workspaces and not carrying organic materials between bird habitats.
“We will continue to monitor the spread of HPAI and make additional decisions as the outbreak continues,” Dr. Shirley Lizo, said. “Our main focus is protecting the well-being of our birds.”
The Topeka Zoo will take more stringent measures if HPAI establishes itself in Shawnee County such as moving some of the outdoor birds indoors and possibly even closing the Tropical Rainforest to the public.
Lisa Keith, Director at the David Traylor Zoo of Emporia, also gave a statement to KSNT on what the zoo is doing to keep its birds safe.
“We are being very cautious right now,” Keith said. “We have moved some of our birds out of exhibits that were open-air. On our closed top habitats, we are using footbaths. If any wild birds are found deceased on zoo property, they will be sent for testing.”
The bird flu was also recently confirmed to be in a non-commercial backyard mixed species flock in Franklin County, Kansas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The property has since been quarantined by the KDA and birds on the property will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture first warned people of the spread of HPAI in nearby states on March 4 and it was subsequently discovered on March 9 in wild bird species. The bird flu can cause birds to experience respiratory distress, lay misshapen or soft/shelled eggs, incoordination and diarrhea. It can also cause some birds to die unexpectedly, even without displaying any symptoms.
While very rare, humans can also contract the bird flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No one in the U.S. has been confirmed to have contracted the bird flu as of yet. Humans infected with HPAI experience limited symptoms and do no fall seriously ill.
If you see any symptoms of HPAI in your domestic birds and do not have access to a veterinarian, contact the KDA at 785-564-6601.