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Parrot fever forces aviary to close exhibit

| Sunday, June 2, 2002, 12:00 p.m.

Parrot fever is sweeping the city's North Side, but it has nothing to do with Jimmy Buffett or the Pittsburgh Pirates mascot.

Seven parrots that live in the tropical rain forest exhibit in the National Aviary of Pittsburgh have contracted psittacosis — more commonly known as parrot fever — and the exhibit has been shut down as employees treat the sick birds and disinfect the area.

While that section is closed, other areas of the aviary will remain open, and admission will be half-price. Tiffany Sander, spokeswoman for the aviary, said officials don't know when the tropical rain forest will reopen.

"We really do not know how the virus got into the exhibit," Sander said. "It is fairly common with wild pigeons. Maybe somebody tracked it in on their shoe."

Parrot fever also is found in pet birds. Sander said it's possible that a bird owner may have carried the virus into the exhibit.

The ill parrots have been quarantined and are being treated with tetracycline, a common antibiotic. They are expected to make a full recovery, Sander said.

There are 190 birds in the rain forest exhibit. Sander said all will be quarantined and treated with the antibiotic as a precaution.

Officials from the Allegheny County Health Department recommended closing the exhibit because parrot fever can be transmitted from birds to humans through handling an infected bird or inhaling dust from dried bird droppings.

There have been no reports of any humans being infected in the outbreak.

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