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Cincinnati Zoo taking some precautions against avian flu

pink bird on a green background of foliage
Sean Foster
A pink ibis at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2021.

Zoos around the country are moving birds indoors to protect them from the highly contagious and potentially deadly avian flu.

The Louisville Zoo closed its aviary walkthroughs early last month and placed some birds into protective enclosures because of fears of the bird flu in Western Kentucky.

At the time, the Cincinnati Zoo told WVXU it was monitoring the situation but wasn't planning any closures. A month later, officials report only some changes.

A spokesperson says a few birds have since been moved inside, including the trumpeter swans and vultures. The zoo also has a task force watching the situation.

"The closest case of avian flu to-date was 110 miles away. If there's a confirmed case within 100 miles, we will take more precautions," writes a spokesperson in an email to WVXU.

NPR reports nearly 23 million chickens and turkeys have been killed across the U.S. to limit the spread of the virus. As of last week, there were no outbreaks reported at zoos, though wild birds carrying the disease have been found, including a wild duck in a behind-the-scenes area at a zoo in Des Moines, Iowa.

According to NPR, "Birds shed the virus through their droppings and nasal discharge. Experts say it can be spread through contaminated equipment, clothing, boots and vehicles carrying supplies. Research has shown that small birds that squeeze into zoo exhibits or buildings can also spread the flu, and that mice can even track it inside.

"Among the precautions zoos are taking is to keep birds in smaller groups so that if a case is found, only a few would be affected. The USDA and state veterinarians would make the final decision about which birds had to be killed."

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.