Bird flu case prompts Omaha Zoo to close multiple exhibits

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha closed several exhibits and took other precautions after one of its pelicans died from avian flu.

The zoo said one of its pink-backed pelicans who died on Thursday had tested positive for highly pathogenic avian flu. A second pelican fell ill on Friday and was euthanized.

As a precaution, the zoo has closed its Lied Jungle, Desert Dome and Simmons Aviary exhibits to the public for at least 10 days.

The Omaha Zoo was one of many across the country to close its aviaries and move birds indoors whenever possible to protect them from bird flu which is mainly spread through the droppings of wild birds. .

The zoo reopened its aviary in June after avian flu cases dwindled, but some cases continued to be reported across the country throughout the summer, and the outbreak began to make a resurgence this fall.

More than 47 million chickens and turkeys were culled in 42 states to limit the spread of bird flu during this year’s outbreak. Authorities order entire herds to be killed when the virus is found on farms. More than 6 million chickens and turkeys were slaughtered last month to limit the spread of the disease.

The Omaha Zoo has also taken precautions to protect its birds by limiting staff access and requiring workers to clean their shoes before entering areas where birds are kept.

The zoo said its pelicans live outdoors, so they come into contact with wild birds. But the pelicans do not come into contact with other birds in the zoo and no other birds in the zoo’s collection have shown symptoms of bird flu.

“It is very important that the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium of Omaha immediately tighten our protocols to protect our birds and guard against any potential spread of avian flu,” said Sarah Woodhouse, director of animal health at the zoo. , in a press release. “This is important both to prevent infection of other birds in the zoo and to prevent the spread of the virus outside zoo grounds.”

Unlike farms, zoos are generally allowed to isolate and treat an infected bird as long as they take precautions to protect other birds in their collections.

Health officials stress that bird flu does not compromise food safety because infected birds are not allowed into the food supply and properly cooking meat and eggs at 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill any viruses.

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