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14 pelicans die from avian influenza at Phoenix Zoo

The zoo said the affected pelicans were all housed on the lake in the children’s zoo area.

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Zoo has confirmed 14 pelicans died from avian influenza after some of the zoo’s pink-backed pelicans began showing signs of neurologic impairment on Oct. 15. 

Avian flu is a highly contagious strain of flu that is responsible for the deaths of millions of birds worldwide. 

Experts say the disease can be transmitted to humans, but caution that it's rare for it to do so. 

“It was a Saturday morning and they noticed that they were not swimming normally not wanting to eat acting very lethargic," zoo veterinarian Gary West told 12News. 

West said zoo staff started treating the pelicans for neurological symptoms and they never recovered. 

RELATED: Wildlife sanctuary euthanizes goose with possible avian influenza

That leaves only two pelicans, West said. 

West believes the disease may have been brought to the pelican's enclosure by passing wild birds. 

Avian flu infects poultry in chicken and egg farms across the country. When it's identified, thousands, sometimes millions of birds are euthanized to stop the spread of the disease. 

It's possible for avian flu to jump from birds to humans, though West said it's rare and difficult. 

“It's very, very minimal chance that you're going to get it unless you're directly interacting with infected birds," West said. 

West said people should not feed birds and should stay away from downed birds or birds that are acting strangely. 

If you see a sick or dead bird, West said you should leave it alone and call animal control or Arizona Game and Fish.

RELATED: 'Excited for these little kits': Meet Phoenix Zoo's new baby endangered ferets

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