The Oregon Zoo’s flamingos, eagles and condors are in lockdown this week because of a respiratory virus epidemic.
No, not that one. The zoo announced Thursday afternoon it would temporarily conceal almost all of its outdoor birds to protect them from avian influenza, or bird flu. The highly contagious virus was detected in Multnomah and Clackamas counties last week. The virus has swept across the country this year, affecting birds in 44 states as of early August.
Many of the zoo’s indoor aviaries will also be closed, a measure intended to prevent the spread of the virus through bird droppings that stick to people’s shoes, the zoo announced.
The virus can be deadly for birds, but doesn’t normally infect humans, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. No cases of bird flu have been detected at the zoo. The sheltering of birds is intended to keep it that way, says Dr. Carlos Sanchez, the zoo’s head veterinarian.
“We’ve brought most of our birds indoors as a precaution, to prevent any possible contact with migrating waterfowl,” Sanchez said in Thursday’s announcement. “They’ll return to their outdoor areas as soon as it’s safe.”
Zoo spokesperson Hova Najarian says that criteria for the birds’ return to viewable areas will be determined in conjunction with state veterinarians.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service detected bird flu in three birds flying over Oregon last week: two bald eagles in Clackamas County and a mallard in Multnomah County.
The current outbreak of avian influenza affecting the country’s birds started in January with a wigeon duck in South Carolina. Since then, the CDC has detected more than 2,000 positive cases in wild birds across the country as of Aug. 3. Over 40 million poultry have also caught the virus.
Oregon’s first reported case of avian flu in this outbreak was detected in a flock of birds hovering over Linn County in May. It was the state’s first case of bird flu since 2015, when the last outbreak occurred.
The mortality of the virus depends on the type of bird: Chickens suffer a mortality rate of 90% to 100%, while some wild bird species can be infected without appearing sick.