Deadly Botulism Warning

Waimanu Lagoons at Wakainae Beach, where deadly avian disease may have broken out

Avoid bird carcasses near waterways, says KCDC

— Dogs and cats at risk

The Kapiti Coast Council is warning the public to keep away from dead birds in or near waterways in the district.

Swans at Waimanu in happier times

Earlier, the Waikanae SPCA reported two cases of suspected avian botulism in two swans, a disease that causes paralysis and death in birds, at the Waimanu Lagoons near Waikanae Beach.

Parks and recreation manager Alison Law says that formal testing on the dead swans that showed avian botulism symptoms has yet to confirm the cause of death. But a precautionary approach is taken in cases where an outbreak is suspected.

“Birds affected with avian botulism typically show signs of paralysis, are unable to fly, and have drooping heads. Wild and captive bird populations, most notably waterfowl, can contract the disease, but it does not cross over to human beings,” she says.

Dogs and cats get sick if they eat carcasses

Ms Law says that the disease is spread to other birds through the carcasses of those killed by avian botulism, and can make dogs and cats sick if they eat a dead bird infected with the disease.

“So, anyone who sees a dead bird in the lagoons area is strongly advised not to touch it, but, rather, should inform the Council so our staff can remove them and dispose of the carcasses safely.”

Health authorities say avian botulism is unlikely to pose a threat to humans, but can be passed onto cats and dogs.

Swan family at Waimanu Lagoons, Waikanae ( photo taken 2012). Photo by Alan Tennyson

Ms Law says that pet owners should be vigilant and watch that their pets don’t go near any bird carcasses. It is possible for animals other than birds to get sick if they ingest meat infected with the toxin causing avian botulism.

Most outbreaks of avian botulism occur during summer when there is less oxygen in waterways due to lower water levels. This causes decaying plant growth and the perfect microclimate for the toxin to occur.

Outbreaks are managed through the removal of infected carcasses and, once cooler weather comes, the disease generally runs its course.

Anyone who sees sick birds at Waimanu Lagoons or on the north side of Waikanae Estuary should inform the Kapiti SPCA.