June 16th, 2006

we have a problem with your brain being

Welcome to the zoo; here's a highly contagious, usually fatal avian disease as a souvenir

From an article on SFGate today:
Infected birds inhabit S.F. Zoo's new exhibit
Highly contagious virus could endanger family pets -- head veterinarian had warned of positive tests, but visitors weren't told on aviary's opening day

At least five parakeets in the flock at Binnowee Landing, the San Francisco Zoo's new blockbuster exhibit, have tested positive for a disease that is highly contagious and often fatal to other members of the avian community -- including family pets -- according to an internal memo sent by the head veterinarian the day before the show opened.

Bird lovers are worried and furious.

The ailment, which cannot be transmitted to humans, is called psittacine beak and feather disease. The zoo knew about the problem before importing the creatures but decided to go ahead with the heavily promoted June 8 opening of the interactive exhibit, in which birds in a walk-in aviary land on visitors who lure them with millet-coated feed sticks.
PBFD is a horrible disease. It's caused by a virus that infects and kills the cells of the feathers and the beak. Infected birds lose their feathers and can eventually become unable to eat (due to the infection of the beak). Secondary problems include bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Most birds with the disease die of secondary infection or starvation.

It's grotesquely irresponsible for the zoo not to have warned visitors. I hope very much that none of the people who visited the exhibit wound up carrying the virus home to their own birds — but if they do, I hope the zoo gets sued for the cost of veterinary care and the value of any birds who become sick or die. If no transmission occurs, I think the zoo's head vet should be censured; if it does get transmitted to somebody's pet, I think the vet should be fired.

This is why I don't go to bird shows and I don't buy pet supplies from shops that sell birds. And there's absolutely no way I'm going anywhere near the SF Zoo.