Virginia Zoo Removes Birds from Habitats to Protect against Avian Flu

NORFOLK, VA – Cases of avian flu (Eurasian H5 HPAI) have been confirmed in wild birds in Virginia, specifically counties surrounding the Virginia Zoo. The organization is taking the necessary precautions to protect its bird collection by removing some species from their habitats.

This highly contagious disease spreads through saliva, excrement and standing water and can affect several bird species, including domestic poultry and wild birds. An animal could be infected without appearing sick, then could share the same food source or its droppings could land in a habitat at the Zoo, thus spreading the disease. Zoo staff are implementing biosecurity measures, such as continuing to wear masks, keeping separate footwear for while on Zoo grounds, wearing gloves and covering their shoes with plastic booties when working with animals at risk.

Guests may notice a few changes while on grounds:

· Non-permeable barriers have been added to the tops of bird aviaries and habitats to prevent droppings or other birds to enter.

· Animals such as the peacocks, screamers, guinea fowl, Rhinoceros hornbills, Egyptian geese, white-naped crane and sarus crane will be moved to protective habitats.

· Some behind-the-scenes tours may not be available or may require guests to wear additional protective gear.

· Larger bird species will still receive access to their outdoor habitats as some are considered lower-risk or for their well-being.

If the disease spreads it could have devastating effects on the Zoo’s bird collection, as well as commercial poultry farms and backyard flocks. All bird owners should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials.

This strain of avian flu has not been detected in a wild bird in the United States since 2016. No human infections from this virus have been found in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to the general public to be low and is very rare.