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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Onishchenko Says No Avian Flu at Zoo

The country's chief epidemiologist, Gennady Onishchenko, on Tuesday dismissed media reports that two geese at the St. Petersburg Zoo had died of avian flu, Interfax reported.

The geese died Dec. 8. The zoo closed its doors on Monday for what zoo officials called routine maintenance. A notice at the zoo said it would remain closed through the end of the year.

"Analysis of samples taken from the dead geese at the zoo did not confirm the presence of the avian flu virus," Onishchenko told Interfax.

"All employees of the zoo who work with birds were examined all the same. They were examined by infectious disease specialists and pronounced healthy," Onishchenko said.

St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Lyudmila Kostkina confirmed Tuesday that the H5N1 strain of avian flu that is dangerous to humans was not detected in the dead geese, Interfax reported.

Kostkina said the cause of death had not yet been determined, but that the geese had not died of avian flu.

"Given that the situation raises doubts, monitoring of the birds at the zoo will continue," Kostkina said, adding that no further infections or deaths among the zoo's birds had occurred.

Bird flu remains essentially an animal disease but has infected more than 250 people worldwide since late 2003, killing more than 150, according to the World Health Organization.

Experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that is easily transmissible between humans and spark an influenza pandemic, killing millions of people.

(MT, Reuters)