Will Zoos Be First to Spot Avian Flu?

Facing a disease that threatened the zoo's irreplaceable avian collection, officials acted quickly to implement bio-security procedures they hoped would help.

They closed their walk-through aviaries so that people couldn't bring the virus into the facility and required keepers to wear uniforms that were laundered on-site, so they never left the facility.

Employees with sick pets at home were told to stay away, just in case.

"At all of our service entrances, we would query drivers on where they were coming from, make sure it wasn't a poultry operation of an egg farm or something like that and then if they did have business on our property, we would still spray the undercarriage of the vehicle -- their tires and things -- with a disinfectant," Janssen said. "It's that contagious."

Though exotic Newcastle never infected their collection, the experience was good preparation for avian flu -- though that disease will pose some unique challenges of its own.

"One is that the virus is a disease potential for humans -- although at this point it has to be very intimate contact between infected birds and humans for there to be a disease," Travis said. "And also even though exotic Newcastle disease could be transmitted by wild birds it didn't seem to occur that way, with avian influenza it definitely can be in the wild bird population."

It's Still All Happening at the Zoo

If you're considering a trip to the zoo in the near future, you shouldn't let bird flu stop you. Both the CDC and zoo experts say you're no more likely to contract avian flu or any other illness at a zoo than anywhere else in the area.

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