DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Zoo confirmed Monday morning that two birds in their care recently died and tested positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.
The avian flu is an extremely infectious and often deadly virus that spreads rapidly from flock to flock.
According to the Denver Zoo, a Brazilian teal and Barrow’s goldeneye had recently died and tested positive for the infectious virus. Samples from the birds tested presumptive positive at the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the results were confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory.
Since the virus is highly contagious, the zoo has initiated its highest level of safety protocols in accordance with its avian flu guidelines and prevention. This includes isolating other birds that may have been exposed and implementing enhanced biosecurity measures for all the staff working with birds, according to the zoo.
“We are being very proactive,” said Brian Aucone, the senior life sciences vice president at Denver Zoo.
“We have staff wearing protective equipment just to help from a transmission standpoint. Lots of monitoring from our animal care staff, our veterinarians and so on, so anything that we’re seeing, we are giving lots of supportive therapy and basically treating any symptoms,” Aucone said.
Bird exhibits on hold at Denver Zoo
It is rare, but the avian flu can spread to humans. The first human case of the virus in 2022 was found in a Delta County inmate who had tested positive for H5N1. The Centers for Disease Control has said the spread from one infected person with H5N1 to another is very rare and that the risk to zoo guests and staff is very low.
The zoo said that bird keepers are keeping a close eye on all the birds in its care and are prepared to manage any additional cases. At-risk birds have been moved to safe indoor areas, and the zoo has made changes to its programming and experiences for at least the next 21 days.
The following bird species will not be in their outdoor habitats and available for viewing:
- African penguins
- Humboldt penguins
- cinereous vultures
- Sarus cranes
- Ground hornbills
The zoo said all up-close looks and educational experiences and programs involving the birds have been suspended.
“There’s not a vaccine for this and so its really kind of keeping an eye of the birds and seeing if they are showing any signs and treating them with supportive therapies,” Aucone said.
The Denver Zoo will continue to monitor the situation and share further communications about adjusted operations as needed.
FOX31’s Gabby Easterwood contributed to this report.