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Zoo Atlanta takes steps to protect animals from avian flu exposure

Almost 23 million birds have been killed in the U.S. to limit the spread of avian flu. Atlanta Zoo takes steps to make sure their birds don't meet the same fate.

ATLANTA — Many of the birds at Zoo Atlanta are going indoors due to an outbreak of the highly contagious and potentially deadly avian flu

"These precautions were taken out of an abundance of caution and are animal health precautions only; the risk of a human or other mammal contracting avian influenza is considered very low," the zoo said in a release.

The virus is spread through birds' droppings and nasal discharge. According to research, small birds crammed inside zoo displays or buildings have been proven to spread the virus, and mice can even track it inside. It may be spread through infected equipment, clothing, footwear and cars transporting supplies.

Because the illness is highly infectious, officials order the entire flock to be killed when bird flu cases are discovered in poultry. But, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, zoos may be able to avoid this by isolating diseased birds and maybe euthanizing a small number of them.

The zoo said several weeks ago their Animal Care Team moved bird species known to be the most at risk indoors. Those birds include the peafowl, crested guineafowl, crested wood partridges, golden pheasants and white-faced whistling ducks.

Other measures the zoo said they took included covering some bird habitats so they would have less contact with wild birds. 

"Zoo Atlanta continues close daily monitoring and assessment of the situation," the release said. 

Their senior director of animal health receives daily updates on bird surveillance in the region, the zoo said, and is also in regular contact with the USDA.       

To minimize the spread of the virus, about 23 million chickens and turkeys have been killed across the U.S., and Zoo Atlanta is trying to ensure that their birds won't share the same fate. It would be especially painful for zoos to put down any of their rare or threatened animals, officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also tracking the virus infections in humans. People can check to see if the virus has been detected in their area by clicking here.


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