HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) – Avian influenza has been on the rise across the United States this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Leaders with the Hattiesburg Zoo said they have been monitoring migratory paths and outbreaks that have followed across the country.

“When positive cases occur within 250 miles or less of our Zoo, our well-established action plan is put into place immediately,” said Jeremy Cumpton, Director of Conservation, Education and Wildlife.

In November, a bird flu outbreak occurred within 52 miles of the zoo.

Avian influenza affects the respiratory, neurological and digestive systems. Birds most susceptible to bird flu are domestic poultry, egrets, geese, flamingos, swans and resident waterfowl. The disease can spread through feces, respiratory droplets and bodies of water.

The Hattiesburg Zoo’s animal care team has intensified their use of personal protection equipment (PPE) including the use of footbaths when entering and exiting bird habitats, wearing of masks, gloves and in some cases single-use full-body suits.

“We have moved some of our birds to different habitats and moved food and water bowls under shelters or into the interior area of the birds’ habitats, which will provide protection while still giving the birds access,” said Kristen Moore, Animal Curator. “We have also drained pools in the Eagle Habitat and in the Veldt of Africa.”

Moore said additional cleaning will be done on the sidewalks around the flamingo habitat and Wallaby Walkabout. They’ve also taken all chickens and parrots off exhibit.

“Several of our birds are among the most popular animal ambassadors at the Hattiesburg Zoo, but will not be used for education or interaction around guests at this time,” said Cumpton.