Monday, January 8, 2007

Avian Flu Outbreak in Austin?

Crews collecting birds are shown on a closed off stretch of Congress Avenue in downtown Austin today.

From today's Houston Chronicle:

Downtown Austin closed after dead birds found
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

AUSTIN — More than 10 blocks in downtown Austin leading up to the Capitol were shut down early today after officials found several dead birds in the area.

The area, from Cesar Chavez to Eleventh Street and some side streets, was expected to remain closed until about noon while the Austin Fire Department conducted "further precautionary testing of the area,'' police spokeswoman Toni Chovanetz said in a statement.

"Please advise individuals that work in this area not to come in until further notice,'' the statement read.

Chovanetz would not discuss details or speculate on what could have killed the birds. She said it was the first time she could remember a large swath of downtown being shut down because of dead birds.

At least one bird carcass (they were mostly grackles) is being tested locally for signs of poisoning or viral infections and others are being shipped to the Centers for Disease Control and Texas A&M University. It could be days or even weeks before the test results come back. Officials do not think bird flu is involved.

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