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China Panda Base Closed To Protect Against H1N1

November 24, 2009

Officials at a panda research center in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province have closed the facility to visitors as a precautionary measure intended to protect the animals from being infected by the H1N1 swine flu.

The Shaanxi Wild Animal Rescue and Research Center is one of China’s four panda research bases. The facility is home to 21 giant pandas, including three cubs born this year.

On Tuesday, officials announced that it would be shutting off a 2,000-square-meter area to the public due to a greater number of H1N1 patients, Wang Gang, a worker at the center told Xinhua News.

Five panda caretakers and two vets are permitted access to the panda center, said Jin Xuelin, the center’s deputy chief.

“For safety considerations, they have to wear masks and gloves before entering the panda houses.”

“It’s still not certain whether pandas are susceptible to A/H1N1 flu, but we need to be careful,” he said. “Seasonal flu cases were reported several times at the giant panda research base in Sichuan’s Wolong in the past.”

Jin added that the facility would hopefully open back up to the public in spring.

According to the Associated Press, a receptionist who answered the phone at the center said all pandas were healthy, but the center was taking extra precautions.

So far, no pandas have been infected by the swine flu virus, said the receptionist, who refused to give more than her surname Zhou.

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