Parts of Vienna’s Schoenbrunn Zoo have been closed to the public after the highly contagious H5N8 bird flu virus was found in a pelican that was put down this week, the zoo said on Wednesday. The H5N8 strain, which is deadly for birds but has not been found in humans, has spread across Europe and the Middle East since late last year, leading to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of poultry and the confinement of flocks indoors.
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The zoo’s Dalmatian pelicans had been kept in a tent since December as a preventive measure, the zoo said in a statement. One of them became acutely ill on Monday and was put to sleep. “We now have proof that it was infected with the H5N8 strain of bird flu,” zoo veterinarian Thomas Voracek said in the statement.
The rest of the pelican flock is being tested for the virus and results are due on Thursday.
“In order to protect the remaining bird stock, the bird house, the rainforest house and the desert house are closed with immediate effect,” said the zoo, which is set in the gardens of Schoenbrunn Palace, a former imperial summer residence.