Dhaka zoo put on alertover bird flu fear | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 08, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 08, 2008

Dhaka zoo put on alertover bird flu fear

Test confirms 'Rhea' bird dies of cold, not flu

Dhaka Zoo authorities fearing a bird flu epidemic hang notices on aviaries telling people to be aware of the disease.Photo: STAR

The lone rhea, a species of flightless ratite bird native to South America, of the Dhaka National Zoo had died of enteritis, not of bird flu infection, said zoo authorities yesterday.
The eight and a half year-old rhea, brought from Thailand, died on Sunday. As the bird was discharging nasal fluid, the authorities were panic-stricken over the possibility of spreading avian flu in the zoo.
After examining faeces sample of the dead bird, both Central Disease Investigation Laboratory (CDIL) and Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI) confirmed that the bird was not infected with avian flu.
The reason of the rhea's death was simply enteritis, a cold related disease, said the CDIL report.
Biosecurity measures have been beefed up in the zoo following the death of the rhea, said the zoo authorities.
Kazi Fazlul Haq, curator of the zoo, told The Daily Star, "The birdcages are being sprayed with disinfectants twice daily and the entire zoo has been sprayed as well."
"Virkon -- a type of disinfectant is being sprayed at the entry and exit points of the zoo for the safety of visitors. Besides, protective bamboo fencing has been erected [around the birdcages] to keep people at a safe distance," he added.
"Electrolyte, vitamins and minerals have been increased in the bird feed to strengthen their immune system. Even all the animals of the zoo have been vaccinated as part of the precaution management," said Shafiqur Rahman, animal nutrition officer of the zoo.
The CDIL officials have been monitoring the situation at the zoo round the clock, added Rahman.
Biosecurity are the commonsense measures taken to protect poultry and birds from all types of infectious agents -- viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic, said Dr Dan Rutz, senior communications specialist of National Centre for Health Marketing (NCHM), USA.
Consistent biosecurity practices are the best way to prevent bird diseases such as exotic Newcastle disease (END) and Avian Influenza (AI), Dr Rutz said adding that people, animals, equipment or vehicles -- all can carry the viruses and infect poultry or zoo animals.
Therefore, it is important to practice biosecurity to keep the birds safe from potentially deadly diseases, he said.
During a visit to the Dhaka National Zoo, this correspondent saw cautionary notices posted in front of a number of birdcages including cassowary, peafowl and heron. The notice reads: 'Maintain safe distance from the bird sheds -- Be aware of preventing Bird Flu'.
Raihan, a class X student who came to visit the zoo with his friends from Bogra, said, "The message doesn't really clarify what 'safe distance' is and how we can 'be aware of bird flu'."
The message lacks adequate information, he complained saying that he did not even know how the avian flu virus spreads.
Another student from Jahangirabad Cantonment Public School said, "My teachers never told us about it. We came to know about it just by watching television and reading newspapers."
Though the posted notice also asks not to bring any food item near the birdcages, people around the cages were seen quite careless about the warning and eating fruits bought from a young vendor who was selling fruits right in front of the cages.
Prof Nazrul Islam of Department of Virology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University said, "Bird flu spreads with swabs, nasal discharge and faeces of infected birds through the air. If people come in contact with infected birds, they risk the chance of being infected with the virus through inhalation. Even if someone touches an [infected] bird and eats food with that hand, there is possibility of getting infected."
This correspondent also noticed that the zoo is under constant threat of contamination as most of the cages where flightless birds are kept did not have any roof above. Various common local birds such as sparrow, shalik (common Indian myna) or crow were freely entering and leaving the cages to feed on the grains served for the caged birds.
The veterinary surgeon of the zoo admitted the risk. He however said since there is no immediate solution to the problem, biosecurity measures are being enhanced as a precaution.
A total of 1,220 birds of more than 58 species housed at the Dhaka National Zoo are now under imminent danger of being infected by bird flu virus as 19,000 fowls were culled only a few days ago at the neighbouring Central Poultry Farm following detection of bird flu.
Experts said birds that are susceptible to Avian Influenza need to be identified first and then biosecurity measures should be enhanced in the entire zoo to save the precious birds.

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