Aquariums Protect Birds Amid Avian Flu Threat

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Aquariums Protect Birds Amid Avian Flu Threat

RALEIGH, N.C. – Popular ambassador birds at the North Carolina Aquariums will be protected away from their open-air habitats as a precautionary measure in response to cases of avian influenza found in eastern North Carolina wild birds.

“Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect several species of birds, including domestic poultry and wild birds. This disease, if spread, could have devastating effects on poultry farms (both commercial and backyard flocks) and birds living in zoos, aquariums and wildlife centers,” said Emily F. Christiansen, DVM, MPH, Dipl. ACZM, chief veterinarian, North Carolina Aquariums. Visitors to the North Carolina Aquariums at Pine Knoll Shores, Fort Fisher and Roanoke Island will notice these temporary measures to protect the bald eagles and the screech owl from contact with wild birds:
 -At Pine Knoll Shores, the bald eagles Uwohali and Shagoie Watha will be moved from their open-air habitat, Eagle Landing, and cared for behind the scenes.  -The Aquarium team at Fort Fisher is caring for Maverick, the rescued bald eagle, away from his habitat.  -On Roanoke Island, the ambassador Eastern screech owl, Napoleon, will temporarily be unavailable for public programs.

The other bird species in the Aquariums’ care are safely protected within their outdoor habitats behind the scenes or indoor habitats that separate them from the public. To further protect all bird species onsite, the Aquariums have increased biosecurity for staff, including restricting access to birds to specific teams who work with the Aquariums’ feathered animals.  

The Aquariums are working closely with N.C. Aquarium Division veterinary team, the N.C. Department of Agriculture, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to determine when they can safely return the eagles to their public habitats. 

All the birds at the Aquariums are healthy and are not showing any signs of the disease, which include sneezing, coughing, lack of energy and poor appetite.  

“Our visitors really treasure these beautiful birds at our Aquariums, and we are taking every precaution to ensure they stay safe and healthy, so they can quickly return to their habitats for everyone to enjoy,” said Maylon White, division director, North Carolina Aquariums.

No human infections from this virus have been found in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says transmission of the virus from birds to humans is very rare and considers the risk to the public very low. For more information, visit CDC Information on Avian Influenza.
For those who rear domestic poultry or are around wild birds, more information about caring for their own flock and recommended steps to increase their biosecurity is available at USDA Defend the Flock.

The public can report sick or dying wild birds to N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission helpline at 866-318-2401, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. They can report any sick or dying birds in human care to a local veterinarian, the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Science Veterinary Division, 919-707-3250, or N.C. Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System, 919-733-3986. For more information, visit NCDA&CS.

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