Zombie Pigeons Cause Panic in Moscow, Officials Order Investigation on Bird Epidemic

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By Reissa Su | August 20, 2013 4:55 PM EST

Will the first zombies turn out to be pigeons? Many residents in Moscow, Russia, were unnerved by a rash of pigeon deaths. Residents called them zombie pigeons because before they died, the pigeons allegedly displayed zombie-like behaviour for ignoring passers-by and moving vehicles.

The so-called zombie pigeons were found to have the same common infection in their intestines.  The infection was declared not dangerous to humans, based on the assessment of the Moscow deputy mayor for social issues, Leonid Pechatnikov. 

However, many sources have said the zombie-like pigeons were brought down by salmonella, avian flu and the Newcastle disease. Another bird expert said the pigeons' deaths were natural in August after their mating season.

The zombie pigeon deaths in Moscow have triggered speculations that the birds were killed by a virus fatal to humans.  People who have encountered "sick birds" said the pigeons were not paying attention to them.  Before dying, the pigeons were said to lose orientation and were seen flying without any direction.

The Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Inspection Service reported last week that the behaviour of the zombie pigeons was caused by Newcastle disease which can be spread to humans. 

The Veterinary Committee blamed the sudden mass death of pigeons in Moscow salmonella poisoning. This could also spread to other animals and humans.  According to veterinary specialists, they discovered lesions in the gastrointestinal tracts and livers of the bird's dead carcasses.  It was apparently caused by salmonella and not the Newcastle disease. 

Chief sanitary inspector Gennady Onishchenko warned parents to watch their children especially if they came in contact with sick pigeons.  If a child finds a dead bird on their balcony, it must be cleaned by disinfectant to ward off viruses. The cleaning should be done with rubber gloves to avoid possible contamination. 

Omithologists or bird scientists said the "zombie pigeon epidemic" happens every year and not only in Russia.

The government has already ordered an official investigation on zombie pigeons as conflicting reports and information begin to surface, causing more confusion among the people.   

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