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Potawatomi Zoo moves birds indoors to protect them from avian flu

Potawatomi Zoo

The Potawatomi Zoo is moving all birds indoors and taking staff safety precautions after an increase in avian flu cases in the area.

A Facebook post from the zoo says avian influenza is “highly contagious,” and “once it gets in a population, there isn’t much that can be done.”

The virus has been detected at two Elkhart County duck farms in recent weeks, and at six turkey farms in Southern Indiana earlier this year.

The Indiana State Board of Animal Health said Tuesday that surveillance testing of nearby poultry farms, backyard flocks and wild birds in a 10-kilometer area around the first outbreak came back negative. The agency is now conducting similar testing around the second outbreak.

NPR reports that around 24 million poultry birds nationwide have been lost due to the outbreak, either killed by the virus or culled to prevent its spread, and zoos across North America are moving birds indoors to protect them from the flu.

According to the USDA, the outbreak has also driven average egg prices to around $3 a dozen — nearly double the April 2021 average.

So far, the risk of human infection seems low — NPR reports that the only person known to have contracted this strain of bird flu was an elderly person in the United Kingdom who tested positive in January 2022 but lived in close quarters with ducks and reported no symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control is monitoring the situation, and said in March that the H5N1 strain poses a low risk to the public.

Hobby poultry owners in Elkhart County can call 317-544-2387 to schedule free testing of their flocks.

The zoo hasn’t indicated when the birds will be moved back into outdoor habitats.

Contact Gemma at or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

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Gemma DiCarlo came to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.