Avian botulism suspected in New Zealand
The Christchurch City Council, NIWA (a crown-owned research and consultancy company) and Fish and Game New Zealand are working collaboratively to determine the cause of birdlife deaths at Christchurch's oxidation ponds and other wetland areas in the eastern parts of the city.
A number of birds have been found dead along the banks of the oxidation ponds located at the Christchurch wastewater treatment plant in recent weeks.
Investigations by local ornithologists and vets at Massey University are now being conducted. The initial diagnosis of the deaths is avian botulism, a natural phenomena which has occurred around the world and in New Zealand wetland areas.
Specialist testing is being undertaken to confirm this initial diagnosis, and the Council hopes to have this information by mid-February 2012. Until the exact cause of the bird deaths is known, the council recommends the public and any pets stay away from sick or dead birds.
Avian botulism is a paralysing, often fatal disease which is caused by a botulism bacterium. Birds suffering from the bug will have sluggish movements and will struggle to use their wings, raise their heads, or feed. The toxin thrives in still, shallow, warm water, including waterways or ponds.
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