Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo closes aviary as precaution against avian flu

The Henry Doorly Zoo Closes its aviary as a precaution against avian influenza found in Pottawattamie County
Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 7:36 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium closed its aviary Wednesday after a nearby backyard bird flock was found with avian influenza.

Dr. Sarah Woodhouse, the zoo’s director of animal Health, put some precautions in place to protect the birds at Henry Doorly’s Simmons Aviary, including closing the exhibit to the public until further notice.

“There are no suspected cases at the zoo, and we’re working to keep it that way,” a Henry Doorly spokeswoman told 6 News on Wednesday.

Dr. Woodhouse said the USDA informed the zoo that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza had killed a flock of 45 chickens in Iowa, about 20 miles east of Offutt Air Force Base.

“This means that there are very likely HPAI-infected wild birds in our air space, and we need to take immediate action to prevent our birds from becoming infected,” Dr. Woodhouse said.

While HPAI doesn’t usually kill wild birds, they are generally carriers, specifically waterfowl and wading birds, she said.

“The most likely way in which our birds will be infected is contact with feces of infected wild birds, either directly — wild bird poop in enclosures — or by someone stepping in infected wild bird feces and then walking into bird enclosures,” Dr. Woodhouse said.

To protect the birds in the zoo’s habitats, zoo workers will be setting up disinfectant foot baths for employees to use at each individual bird building and holding area. Henry Doorly employees entering those areas will be required to step into the foot baths before entering those areas and assure that the specific boots they use there never leave that area.

Zoo workers will also lock birds with holding areas inside to prevent contact with wild birds and their potentially infected feces, the Henry Doorly spokeswoman said.

Any Henry Doorly staff who have chickens or other birds at home will also be instructed to take extra precautions like assuring they have changed clothes and shoes before coming to work at the zoo and observing their birds at home for symptoms of avian flu.

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