Avian flu poses risk to birds in Hampton Roads, safety measures being taken

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Posted at 2:36 PM, Mar 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 17:57:01-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – The Virginia Living Museum warns that the avian flu is in on the East Coast, including Hampton Roads.

Bird and mammal experts at the museum are taking precautions to make sure their birds remain safe. That includes closing the aviary and not offering personal encounters with birds.

Jim Weinpress, senior director of animal welfare for the Virginia Living Museum, told News 3, “We basically created safety protocols to make sure avian influenza would have a hard time getting into our institution, and we wouldn’t accidentally be allowing it to travel even further.”

So far, there have been no known cases of the avian flu at the museum. Katie Hoffman, curator of birds and mammals, along with her crew, works hard to keep it that way. When feeding and checking on the birds, they wear a jumpsuit that is washed daily, along with a mask, gloves and shoe coverings.

“Our aviary obviously gets a lot of traffic. It is a major thoroughfare for our guests,” Hoffman said. “So, we really want to eliminate that foot traffic of people walking through the Virginia Living Museum, catching some of the wild bird droppings that may be infected, and tracking that through our aviary.”

Hampton Roads has a lot of native species of birds, and the experts at the Virginia Living Museum say it’s best to avoid feeding waterfowl which encourages them to congregate and could then spread avian flu. It’s also recommended that if one has a bird feeder, that they sanitize it with a diluted bleach solution on a regular basis.

According to Weinpress, the avian flu is not likely to spread to humans, cats or dogs, but he said it’s still a good idea to take precautions.

“To be on the safe side, you do want to keep your pets away from wildlife and especially waterfowl,” Weinpress warned.

Weinpress says they are working with state veterinarians to find out when it’s safe to reopen the aviary.