Birmingham Zoo: Alabama Bird Aviary May Have Exposed Visitors to Bacterial Disease, Officials Say

The Alabama Department of Public Health issued a precautionary notice Wednesday to visitors from the past 30 days after the zoo’s birds tested positive for the bacterial disease psittacosis.

Alabama Department of Health officials are warning anyone who visited the Birmingham Zoo’s Lorikeet Aviary in the past 30 days about possible exposure to a bacterial infection found in some of the zoo’s birds.

The zoo confirmed some of the birds have chlamydophila, a bacterial infection also known as psittacosis. The infection can be spread from birds to human and can cause respiratory problems in both.

Birmingham Zoo officials say so far, none of their staff have shown any of the symptoms. The infection is treated with antibiotics for both humans and birds.

The symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and a dry cough that can develop into pneumonia, according to the ADPH. The symptoms usually occur three to 14 days after the exposure, but health officials say longer incubation periods are possible.

People who are in close contact with the birds, such as zoo handlers and bird caretakers, pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk of infection, the ADPH says.

Anyone who has the symptoms and has visited the zoo in the past 30 days should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the exposure to the birds, according to the ADPH. If you’re not experiencing symptoms, there is no need to see medical treatment.

The zoo has temporarily closed their Lorikeet Aviary as a precaution, according to news release.

The Birmingham Zoo’s veterinary staff will test, observe and treat the birds over the next several weeks. Zoo officials say this is the first time this disease has been found in their birds.

“We routinely conduct health exams on the Zoo’s animals so that we can be as proactive as possible about detecting the presence of disease among the Zoo’s animals. After a lorikeet presented symptoms and tested positive, the exhibit was closed so the entire collection could be tested and treated as needed,” Dr. Stephanie McCain, lead veterinarian at the Birmingham Zoo, said in a release.

“The Veterinary staff is taking all measures to ensure the safety and health of the lorikeet collection and will continue to monitor any circumstances that may affect the Zoo’s animal collection or the guests,” McCain stated.

For more information about psittacosis or if you have questions about possible exposure, call the ADPH Division of Epidemiology at 1-800-338-8374, or the Jefferson County Department of Health at (205) 933-9110.

The CDC says fewer than 50 cases of the infection are confirmed in humans each year.

The Lorikeet Aviary opened at the Birmingham Zoo in April.

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Michael Harvey

Michael Harvey has been a contributing writer and journalist for the Pluto Daily since January 2014.