WACO, Texas (FOX 44) – Zoos across the U.S are moving their birds indoors to protect them from the deadly contagious Avian flu.
Cameron Park Zoo Veterinarian James Kusmierczyk says they have closed several bird exhibits for public viewing, and are taking several precautions against the disease.
Including putting up signs and draining water in exhibits to prevent wild birds from gathering.
“Right now there is not a huge risk to the public, but increasing the distance for contact between our birds and people, they are indirectly being protected,” Kusmierczyk said.
The CDC describes the Avian Influenza as a contagious respiratory virus hosted by wild aquatic birds which can spread infecting domestic birds.
“It can affect any bird, waterfowl in particular things like ducks and geese can be carriers so not necessarily show signs of disease and spread it.” Kusmierczyk said. “Those are typically the birds we monitor the closet, but it can affect any bird.”
Walking through the zoo you can see the green mesh surrounding exhibits with the birds stored away in barns.
There is one wild bird that the zoo can not get rid of no matter how hard they try, black vultures.
“This virus can affect black vultures which is something we are taking very seriously,” Kusmierczyk said. “One of the worries that we have is that it will get into the wild vulture population and spread to our birds.”
Vultures have made a permanent residence at the zoo and due to the Migratory Bird Treat Act. There is nothing that can be done to them.
“We increased biosecurity in areas were our keepers go into spaces with birds, we introduced foot baths,” Kusmierczyk said. “The disease can be spread through feces. So if you walk through wild bird feces and walk into another area you are going to potentially expose them.”
This year has been worse for the spread of the virus to domestic and wild birds compared to years in the past.
According to the World Economic Forum there has been approximately 23 million chickens, turkeys and birds in backyard flocks that have been detected for the flu.
There have been no sick birds at Cameron Park Zoo, but if there were they have to follow the guidelines and report it to State and Federal animal officials.
Kusmierczyk says the Avian influenza has not had any human cases with this outbreak.