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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

'Zombie pigeons' frighten Moscow citizens

For the second time in three years the city of Moscow is experiencing an epidemic of pigeon deaths. Unlike the September 2010 situation (where the birds would quickly turn around, then randomly die), unnerved witnesses to the current crisis describe the fowl demonstrating "zombie-like behaviors' before falling dead. This includes them blankly wondering while ignoring cars and people, walking stiffly and indiscriminately, completely outside of normal pigeon behavior.

Initial reports from Russian Authority advised citizens that the birds had contracted Newcastle disease, a dangerous bird flu which can be transferred to humans. They quickly revised that assessment once public concern grew, claiming it was salmonellŠ° poisoning, another bird-to-human virus. By the end of the day a third revision was issued, assuring frightened citizens that the birds were actually expiring from a common intestinal infection, one which cannot be transferred to humans.

Skeptics were quick to note, however, that the latest diagnosis does not explain away the birds' bizarre shenanigans. In another point of contention, the same reports meant to calm people's fears also stress the importance of not handling the dead birds in any capacity, and to thoroughly clean (while wearing surgical gloves) any outdoor surfaces where they are found dead.

Though considered rare, there are viral infections (such as prion diseases) which can manifest zombie-like behaviors, in both animals and humans. According to Authority's third revision, however, that is not the case with the 'zombie' pigeons; there is no word if a fourth revision is forthcoming.

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