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Photo: EP Zoo

El Paso Zoo says goodbye to Myrtle the Ostrich

El Paso Zoo staff is saying goodbye to Myrtle, an Ostrich, who had been treated for several weeks for a recurring sinus infection.

When first-line treatments were unsuccessful, veterinary staff examined Myrtle under anesthesia and discovered abnormal tissues growing in her sinuses. Myrtle recovered well from the anesthesia, but samples from the tissue confirmed Mycobacterium.

To prevent the spread of the disease among other animals at the zoo, Myrtle was humanely euthanized on Wednesday.

Mycobacterium avium is found naturally everywhere in the environment, and causes sporadic infections in birds, as well as in immune-compromised people and animals. While Mycobacterium avium is not uncommon in birds, treatment is very difficult. Mycobacterium aviumis naturally resistant to many antibiotics and can require lifelong treatment.

During treatment, the bird may shed more Mycobacteria into the environment, which puts immune-compromised people and other animals in the exhibit at risk. In addition, Mycobacteria also often develop resistance to the drugs used to treat it, and drugs may have to be changed during treatment.

“Due to the risk to other animals and keepers, the need to avoid creating drug-resistant Mycobacterium avium strains, and the unlikely chance for curative treatment we had to make the heartbreaking decision to euthanize Myrtle. This was a very painful decision, but we have a moral and ethical obligation to our animals and the community,” said Dr. Victoria Milne, Zoo Veterinarian.

Myrtle’s keepers were able to spend a couple more days spoiling Myrtle with love and treats, before she was calmly anesthetized. The euthanasia medication was administered while she was under anesthesia.

Author: El Paso Zoo

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