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Zoo moves petting farm fowl over bird flu fears

The National Zoo has removed the chickens and ducks from its children’s petting farm to prevent the possible spread of bird flu from the animals to humans.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The National Zoo has removed the chickens and ducks from its children’s petting farm to prevent the possible spread of bird flu from the animals to humans.

None the birds is infected with the avian flu virus, and there have been no bird or human infections reported in North America. Still, the zoo is moving them to its research center in Front Royal, Va., as a precaution, said director John Berry.

“This is the only place in the zoo where children are actively encouraged to pet and touch the animals,” Berry said Thursday. “We want to be extra cautious.”

The 18 ducks and 27 chickens are part of the Kids’ Farm exhibit, a two-acre area that opened in 2004.

None of the other bird exhibits is affected because the birds and visitors don’t have close contact, Berry said. He said the zoo was working with the Department of Agriculture on vaccines for its birds, particularly those considered endangered species, to prevent them from becoming infected.

The virus has killed at least 130 people worldwide since it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003. Most human cases of bird flu have been traced to contact with sick birds.