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North Carolina Zoo prepares for possible arrival of avian flu

The North Carolina Zoo has updated its emergency response plan and is working with its federal and state partners to prepare for the possible arrival of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in North Carolina.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, which is also known as HPAI or avian flu, has not reached North Carolina but has already taken a toll on birds in other states.

The virus has the potential to devastate the zoo’s collection of almost 400 individual exotic birds from 90 different species. Zoo officials estimate it would cost about $500,000 to replace its bird collection. The zoo, which is part of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, is in Asheboro.

The zoo’s emergency response plan calls for three levels of response based on the proximity of a documented case of HPAI to the zoo’s grounds. Biosecurity is the zoo’s main focus. Zoo officials have identified indoor housing locations for all the birds in the collection and critical staff members who would be required to work in facilities housing birds. Should avian flu reach North Carolina, the zoo will devote significant resources to decontaminate the site and prevent the virus from spreading.

Zoo staff members are also staying abreast of the most current information on the avian flu outbreak in other states. A task force with the zoo’s professional organization, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or AZA, is working with federal agencies as they track the spread of HPAI. The task force has prepared recommendations on what to expect and what to do if avian flu reaches North Carolina. The zoo receives regular updates from the task force.

Staff members in the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ regulatory agencies have also started planning for avian flu. Details of those preparations were discussed in an earlier Environmentally Speaking blog item.  

The following post was written by Ken Reininger, general curator of Animal Collections at the North Carolina Zoo.

 

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