Bird flu hits Emmanuel the emu, forces Nebraska Zoo to close some exhibits

The Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium closed several exhibits on Saturday after a pink-backed pelican died from highly pathogenic avian flu.

In a statement, the Nebraska Zoo said Simmons Aviary, Lied Jungle and Desert Dome would be closed for at least 10 days.

The pelican died on October 13 and was tested as part of the zoo’s ongoing surveillance for bird flu – which has impacted bird populations around the world this year.

The zoo said a second pelican fell ill on Friday and was euthanized.

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The pelicans currently live outdoors and although they may come into contact with wild waterfowl, they have no contact with other zoo birds.

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The zoo said waterfowl carry the virus — often without getting sick — and HPAI detections have increased nationwide due to fall migration patterns.

No other birds at the zoo showed symptoms or needed to be tested.

HPAI is mainly transmitted through the droppings of wild birds and the zoo has a prevention and response plan in place.

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Zoos across the country closed aviaries and moved birds indoors earlier this year and the outbreak has started to make a resurgence.

More than 47 million chickens and turkeys have been culled in 42 states.

On Sunday, Taylor Blake of Knuckle Bump Farms announced that viral sensation Emmanuel the emu had been taken ill and the farm had been hit hard by bird flu, losing 99% of the birds on the farm.

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Earlier this month penguins at Boulders Beach in Cape Town were reported to have died of bird flu and the BBC reported last week that the UK-based Broads Society was asking for government help after the worst bird flu epidemic in the region.

Millions of birds have been culled, although the UK Health Safety Agency – and others – have said the risk to human health is very low.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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