West Nile Suspected In Crows' Deaths At Zoo

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Veterinarians at the Toledo Zoo think the West Nile virus killed two crows and may have infected some of their penguins.

Although laboratory tests indicated the West Nile virus in the dead crows, further testing is needed to confirm that, said Tim Reichard, the zoo veterinarian.

The crows had tested negative for West Nile just two days before they developed symptoms. One bird died a day later.

Several penguins were also showing disease symptoms as well, Reichard said. The birds are weak and lethargic.

It's unlikely the virus is the sole cause of their problems, if it proves to be a contributor at all, Reichard said.

One penguin died earlier from malaria that infects only birds. Avian malaria may have weakened the other penguins making them also susceptible to the West Nile virus, he said.

Some zoos have inoculated their bird collections, but some did not because of questions about whether the vaccine would protect birds.

The Toledo Zoo has inoculated its two bald eagles and two screech owls with the only vaccine available against the West Nile virus. The zoo also used the vaccine on its healthy penguins.

The virus is spread when a mosquito that has fed on an infected bird bites another animal.

Nationwide, at least 43 people have died from the virus this year. West Nile is suspected in the deaths of four Ohioans.

Crows and blue jays were the first birds in the state to die from the virus. During the past two weeks, it has killed dozens of great horned owls and red-tailed hawks.

No cure for the virus has been found for humans or animals.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)