Guam Rail SSP Veterinary Report 2004


Deidre K. Fontenot, DVM

Veterinarian, Disney’s Animal Programs

P. O. Box 10,000

Lake Buena Vista, FL  32830- 1000

OFFICE 407- 939-6238, FAX 407- 939- 6391


·        Current activities

o       Completing in situ health assessment of captive population

§         Prevalence of fecal acid fast positive birds

§         Prevalence of arboviral serologic activity

§         Prevalence of giardia +/- other flagellate believed to be causing disease in in situ captive population

§         Prevalence of sub clinical campylobacter shedding

o       Investigating other diagnostic options for presence of Mycobacteria avium complex (MAC) in birds

§         Fecal MAC PCR under investigation at U Miami (75 samples submitted from in situ health assessment)

§         MAC serology (ELISA) under investigation at U Miami (75 samples submitted from in situ health assessment)

o       Updating website for current information and protocols regarding preventative medicine, preshipment recommendations, pre- release quarantine protocol

o       Compiling veterinary information for medical husbandry section of husbandry manual

·        Issues

o       Inquiries from vets from mainland institutions regarding Campylobacter positive fecal cultures found during routine health evaluations or during quarantine evaluations.  Birds exhibiting no clinical signs of disease.

§         Suspect this can be a normal GI commensal for this omnivorous species

§         Current investigation reveals no prevalence of shedding in the in situ captive population

o        Few cases of birds being evaluated for shipment to Guam coming up fecal acid fast stain positive for Mycobacteria avium complex (MAC) with no evidence of clinical disease. 

§         Suspect that some birds may be passing MAC organisms in their feces without causing disease.  This is not surprising for a ground dwelling bird foraging in a natural substrate environment with ubiquitous MAC. 

§         MAC fecal positive birds should have a risk assessment for euthanasia versus TB worups at institution’s discretion.  Until we have more numbers to support this GI pass through theory, we must continue with this recommendation and not recommend shipment of these birds to Guam.

§         If birds are found to be acid- fast positive on fecal culture, the institution may choose to keep the bird in the collection and the SSP vet advisor currently recommends an avian TB diagnostic evaluation including physical exam, weight, radiographs, blood collection for CBC/ Chem +/- EPH, liver biopsy for histopathology +/- banking for acid- fast culture (if indicated).  The bird will not be recommended as a candidate for shipment to Guam at this time. 

o       Some institutions are experiencing high morbidity and mortality in other avian species due to arboviral disease and are choosing to vaccine with either the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and/ or the West Nile Virus (WNV) vaccine.

§         The SSP vet advisor does not currently recommend vaccination at this time, but leaves these collection decisions up to the institution veterinarians.

§         It is recognized, however, that serology is the method of screening for birds going to Guam at this time.  Current recommendation and policy is that no serologically positive birds have been sent to Guam.  Vaccination will obviously cause positive titers and can influence whether birds are sent to Guam at this time.

o       Disney’s Animal Kingdom continues to offer to become a pre-release quarantine facility. 

·        Actions from SSP Veterinary advisor

o       Complete health assessment of in situ population for prevalence of acid fast positive fecal cultures, campylobacter positive birds, and serologically positive birds to arboviruses and publish findings.

o       Continue to offer DAK vet services as possible pre-release quarantine site for rails going to Guam

o       Assess benefits and risks of recommending “TB workups” for fecal MAC positive birds destined for Guam and present options to SSP for further specification of current protocols regarding fecal MAC positive birds

o       Complete medical husbandry section for husbandry manual