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Birds make their triumphant return to exhibits at Philadelphia Zoo as avian flu dies down

The zoo's birds were kept indoors for month to protect them from the avian flu.

Penguins at the Philadelphia Zoo.
Penguins at the Philadelphia Zoo.Read moreCourtesy of The Philadelphia Zoo

The birds are back in town.

After months of being kept indoors by The Philadelphia Zoo to protect them from the deadly bird flu, some of the zoo’s avian residents are back in their exhibition areas, just in time for the school year and field trips. The birds that have returned to their outdoor spaces include penguins, flamingos, hornbills, and emus.

“We know how much everyone has missed seeing our feathered friends and are happy to have them back on exhibit for you to visit soon!” the zoo posted on Instagram Saturday.

In April, the zoo was in the highest state of alert and activated biosecurity patrols after reports of millions of birds across the country succumbing to the virus. The zoo disinfected shoes when people walked into the bird areas, and zookeepers wore masks, gloves, and face shields while working with the birds.

But the most drastic measure the zoo took was to move all of its birds indoors until the flu outbreak leveled out.

The highly pathogenic avian influenza is caused by a virus that’s related to but not the same as the seasonal flu in people, a zoo health official previously said. Birds shed the virus through their droppings and nasal discharge, making it hard to control the spread of the virus.

By spring, tens of millions of chickens and turkeys had been euthanized across the country to limit the spread of the virus. To avoid the same outcome, the zoo tested all its birds before putting them all into protective quarantine.

When bird flu cases are found in poultry, officials order the entire flock to be killed because the virus is so contagious. Previously, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that zoos could potentially avoid widespread euthanasia by isolating infected birds and euthanizing a small number of them.