Highly contagious bird flu detected in Wisconsin causes Milwaukee County Zoo to close aviary

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MILWAUKEE COUNTY (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee County Zoo closed its aviary exhibit this week after a highly contagious bird flu was detected in Wisconsin earlier this month.

All birds, penguins and flamingos at the Milwaukee County Zoo were put on high alert.

"Our high alert protocol entails bringing all of our birds indoors that could potentially be exposed," Dr. Pamela Govett said.

Dr. Pamela Govett is the senior staff veterinarian at the zoo. She said the indoor and outdoor exhibits are closed, preventing people from tracking the virus indoors.

"Our keepers wear clean clothes, clean boots any time they go into a bird area to prevent the spread," she said.

Dr. Govett said no birds at the zoo have tested positive so far. But birds can contract it easily. She said it is transmitted through feces, saliva, and nasal secretion.

"Basically, a lot of these birds eat off the ground and so if we had a Canada goose walk through the park and then a peacock walked on top of it and ate some seeds where those feces had fallen, it definitely could get it that way," Dr. Govett said.

There is very little threat to humans with this virus. But in birds, it is 90 to 100 percent lethal.

"In birds, it most often causes neurological issues and sudden death," she said.

This move comes as this strain of the bird flu was detected at a poultry farm in Jefferson County. Dr. Govett said nearly 4 million chickens had to be euthanized.

"So, it can be a definite economic issue as well," Dr. Govett said. "When I spoke to the USDA vet yesterday, she told me that they are finding at least one a day of Canadian goose, snow goose that is testing positive."

If you see any dead birds, Dr. Govett said to make sure you are careful.

"Use a shovel or gloves or something to pick it up and bag it and stick it in the trash can," she said.

But if it's a dead duck or goose, she says to leave it alone and call the state department.

As for how long these exhibits will be closed for, that will likely be until the summer, because Dr. Govett said this virus only dies when it's hot.


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