toronto zoo bird flu

Section of Toronto Zoo closed to public as another scary virus threatens to strike

Part of the Toronto Zoo is off-limits to guests as of Monday, as the facility works to keep its animals safe from the latest viral threat detected in Ontario.

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and it looks like yet another highly transmissible illness is threatening to bear down on Toronto — or at least Toronto's winged population.

The zoo issued a tweet thread on Monday advising visitors that "our bird aviaries are currently closed to the public," a quarantine measure the zoo says is a safeguard to insulate the birds living in the facility from the threat of avian influenza, or bird flu, recently detected in the region.

"We are committed to the health and safety of the animals in our care and are taking proactive steps to protect our birds from avian influenza which has been confirmed in a wild bird in southern Ontario," the tweet thread continues, adding that "by limiting access to the aviaries to only zoo staff, we protect them from any contamination that may come from outside of the zoo."

It was hinted in the announcement that there might be ways to view the birds even with the aviaries locked down, stating that though the walk-through exhibits are currently closed, they could be "significantly modified to protect the birds."

In addition to keeping their own birds safe, the zoo is directing people to federal government advice on how to protect pet birds, as well as livestock like chickens and even the wild city birds common to Toronto streets such as pigeons and seagulls.

While it's most dangerous to birds, the virus does pose risks to humans.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), strains "such as the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus present in Asia, may, on rare occasions, cause disease in humans. Transmission to humans has occurred through close contact with infected birds or heavily contaminated environments."

Two outbreaks have been detected in the last month, the most recent occurring this week at a poultry farm in Southern Ontario. The CFIA placing the farm under quarantine, stating that a highly pathogenic H5N1 strain is the culprit. Another case was detected earlier in March when a wild red-tailed hawk tested positive for bird flu in the Waterloo region.

If you aren't in regular contact with birds and are generally healthy, bird flu is probably nothing you need to worry about. And though no cases have been announced at the Toronto Zoo, it's clear they're taking every precaution to keep it that way.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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