Berlin Zoo closes following bird flu case

Berlin Zoo closes following bird flu case

Berlin Zoo will be shut for an undisclosed number of weeks following a possible outbreak of the H5N1 flu among its bird population.

Berlin Zoo closes after H5N1 bird flu case

The Berlin Zoo has closed for an indeterminate number of weeks after a Hamerkop bird died of the H5N1 flu. The closure, intended to stop the spread of the virus to other animals, staff, visitors and pets, was announced online by the zoo on Friday. The Hamerkop bird is native to central and southern Africa, and its closest relatives are the pelican and shoebill birds.

The zoo must now test 1.200 birds for the H5N1 virus. According to Almut Neumann, advisor for the Veterinary Office in the Mitte district of Berlin, this process could take around two weeks, but the zoo has not yet given a specific date for reopening. 

86 birds that had direct contact with the infected and now deceased Hamerkop will be tested first. A further 200 birds that did not have direct contact with the Hamerkop but are attended to by the same employees at the zoo will then also be tested. The zoo has said it will announce the test results as soon as they are available. In the meantime, Berlin Aquarium and Animal Park remain open.

48 million birds culled as avian flu spreads in Europe

The H5N1 flu can develop into avian flu. And since the 2020 outbreak of avian flu throughout central Europe, birds that have died in the Berlin Zoo have been tested for the flu postmortem.

Data for 2021 and 2022 from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) now show that the bird flu outbreak is the deadliest ever recorded in Europe. According to an ECDC press release, data from the joint European Food Safety Authority (ESFA), ECDC and EU reference laboratory reveal a total of 2.467 outbreaks in poultry farming, 187 diseases detected in captive birds, and 3.573 in wild birds. Across Europe, in total more than 48 million birds have been culled to stop the disease from spreading. While in the past such outbreaks were seasonal due to bird migration patterns, they now occur all year round. 

Like coronavirus, bird flu is zoonotic, meaning that it can transfer between animals and humans, though it is not currently considered a threat to humans. According to Timm Harder, head of the National Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza at the Friedrich Loeffler Institute, there have only been two human cases so far, and neither of the infected people are suffering from serious illness or needed medical help.

In the animal agriculture industry, outbreaks within the goose population in Germany, Poland and Hungary have led to increased prices for goose in Germany. Since 80 percent of the geese Germans eat at Christmas are imported from Hungary and Poland, prices are expected to rise by 3 euros per kilo during the holidays.

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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