Hutchinson Zoo confirms cases of avian flu in geese in its bird rehabilitation center – The Hutchinson News

Hutchinson Zoo officials on Tuesday confirmed avian influenza, or “bird flu,” in some Canada geese receiving treatment in its wildlife rehabilitation center.
All the zoo’s birds usually on exhibit are being moved indoors and isolated until the disease passes, and any fowl suspected of having the virus are quarantined in a separate building, said Zoo Director Nicole Matz.
The rest of the zoo remains open, and the facility’s 30th annual Boo at the Zoo event set for 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday is still on.
“People should feel safe,” Matz said “HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) isn’t something that humans should worry about. So, all are welcome to still come into the zoo. We’re ensuring our collection is safe and that all of our guests and staff are safe.”
Matz said some Canada geese were brought in last week to the rehab center with symptoms of HPAI, which may include signs of respiratory distress, such as coughing, sneezing or nasal discharge, lack of appetite and energy, incoordination and diarrhea.
The zoo sent tests to the Kansas State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, which confirmed the flu on Tuesday. Information about the strain of HPAI from the National Veterinary Services Lab (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, is pending.
There is no treatment for the virus, and one of the birds became so sick it had to be euthanized, she said.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure our collection remains healthy, and all are animals are healthy,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to think this case is in our collection or that it’s at risk. Our animals are very important to us, and we’re doing everything we can to protect them.”
Even their ducks are going inside.
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The zoo actually closed off its aviary a couple of weeks ago after reports of HPAI in the state. That included screening so wild birds could not pass through the enclosure and closing it to the public to prevent tracking it in.
They’ve also been examining waterfowl, which are most susceptible, for symptoms and coordinating with state wildlife officials, Matz said. The virus can be fatal for birds of prey and domestic birds, such as chickens or turkeys as well.
Many zoo animals, including all birds, some mammals, and possibly some reptiles, are susceptible to the disease.
The zoo continues to take birds in its rehabilitation center, which treats upwards of 700 animals annually, attempting to return them to the wild.
“If they show any of the stages (of the flu) we quarantine them in a different space, in the Cargill Wildlife Care Center,” she said.
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Usually, half the building is dedicated to animal rehab, but now they’ve sectioned off the entire building for quarantine.
“The building has been in a state of quarantine since early this year, since March of February,” Matz said. “Any staff going in use foot baths and booties, or they change out their shoes.”
Staff in direct contact with birds with suspected HPAI infections also wear N-95 masks, gloves and gowns.
Also, any birds brought in are now inspected outside the perimeter fence, and disinfected before entering the zoo.The zoo put up barriers on the aviary both in spring and earlier this fall to keep its birds from coming into contact with wild birds, which usually is how the disease spreads.
This is the first time they’ve had a confirmed case on the grounds, Matz believed.
In the current outbreak, which began in December 2021, wild birds across more than 40 states have tested positive for the highly pathogenic virus, with different species experiencing varying reactions from no symptoms to mortality, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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The outbreak is affecting domestic poultry too, with confirmed cases in commercial and backyard flocks across 43 states, the USDA reported last week.