A parakeet at Zoo Atlanta has died from a bacterial infection which caused staff to temporarily shut down the Boundless Budgies Parakeet Aviary.
On their website, Zoo Atlanta said, "A histopathology report from the parakeet indicated the presence of psittacosis, a bacterial infection that can cause respiratory problems in birds and humans."
The exhibit was closed because the infection may be transmitted to humans through direct handling of infected birds or by inhaling bacteria from bird feces or organic debris.
"We routinely conduct necropsies so that we can be as proactive as possible about detecting the presence of disease in our collection, and this is the first example of psittacosis in these parakeets that we have seen at Zoo Atlanta," said Hayley Murphy, DVM, director of veterinary services.
Psittacosis primarily affects parrots, parakeets, macaws, lovebirds and cockatoos.
The parakeet collection is treated with antibiotics once a year in an effort to reduce the likelihood of birds contracting the disease.
"The veterinary team is taking every appropriate action to test and treat the parakeet flock. We continue to proactively monitor any circumstance which would affect our animal collection or our guests," said Murphy.
Vets will decontaminate the aviary before the venue will be reopened to the public.
Murphy told CBS Atlanta the exhibit will probably be closed for 60 days, as the 250 budgies are treated with antibiotics.
Murphy said the risk to humans is extremely low. She said none of the zoo keepers assigned to the birds were sick and no other birds had tested positive for the bacteria.
"I wouldn't worry about it. The chances of you getting it in an open air exhibit like this are so low compared to a home or pet store where there are budgies or parrots," said Murphy.
The bacteria causes mild-like cold symptoms in humans, according to Murphy.
The CDC only had 66 reported human cases over four years.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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