Thursday, June 29, 2006

Zoo Moving Birds

The National Zoo is moving the domesticated ducks and poultry away from its Kids' Farm to guard against poultry flu.

In what was described as a precautionary measure, 18 ducks and 27 chickens were moved to the zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va., last week to guard against infections caused by influenza viruses that can occur naturally in birds.

This is happening even though there have been no reported cases of H5N1 in North America.

Berry stressed that there have been no known cases in the United States of what is called highly pathogenic avian influenza, including a particularly lethal strain, H5N1, that has spread to many parts of the world. More than 150 million birds have died, killed by the disease or slaughtered to control its spread.

If the zoo waited until a case occurred in this country, Berry said, it might not be able to move the domestic fowl and would probably have to euthanize them.

"We didn't want that to be our only option," he said.

Zoos have to take precautions, I guess. But Washington hardly seems like the first place H5N1 would appear in North America, so presumably there would be adequate time to move the birds if this flu does show up in the Americas. In the meantime, the move seems more likely to feed hysteria than calm visitors.

The article notes that this does not affect any of the birds (domestic or wild) around the bird house.

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