AZA News Releases

Advisory Regarding Type A Influenza H1N1 Virus

There are no reported cases of Influenza A: H1N1 (2009-H1N1) transmission from animals to humans in a zoological setting.  Animal collections at zoological institutions, therefore, do not present a concern for public health. The purpose of this advisory is to ensure adequate protections for animal collections.

Virus transmission occurs primarily between people.  However, there have been reports of infections in animals including swine, turkeys, cats and ferrets. Clinical signs have been primarily respiratory in nature. These cases have followed exposure of the animals to humans with H1N1 influenza.

Institutions should review their emergency preparedness plans, including identification of essential personnel for zoo operations, and focus on maintaining proper biosecurity measures and consistent and appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with animals. The potential exists that the virus could be transmitted from an infected person to animals. Species of particular concern are suid, avian, felid, mustelid and primates.

Individuals who are sick should limit contact with animals as well as people to minimize the risk of virus transmission.  Zoos and aquariums with animal contact programs should minimize exposure of animals to people who are obviously sick. As stated in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Accreditation Standards and Related Policies, “Hand washing is perhaps the single most effective personal hygiene procedure for reducing the risk of infection. Given that fact, all areas in which the public has direct contact with animals should have access to hand washing facilities that are in the immediate vicinity of the contact (or an equivalent; e.g., bacteriocidal hand-wipes)."

2009-H1N1 was first detected in humans in the United States in April 2009. It is a triple recombinant including gene segments of human, swine, and avian origin. The rapid spread of the 2009-H1N1 virus has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare this a pandemic, indicating global spread of the virus.  The virus circulating in Mexico and the USA and involving person-to-person transmission appears to have caused pronounced disease in certain people infected by this virus. The vast majority of infected individuals exhibit milder symptoms resembling seasonal flu. Most individuals that have been infected with the 2009-H1N1 virus fully recover.

According to the CDC, the following precautions should be taken at all times to promote good health:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then dispose of the tissue—flu and cold germs are spread mainly by person-to-person contact and the coughing or sneezing of infected people.

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, as these are the primary places germs can enter your body.

Have limited contact with people who are obviously sick.If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others. 

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