Bao Bao update: Pandas can get the flu too

Bao Bao, the four and a half month old giant panda cub, looks at a plastic ball as she trains with animal keepers inside her habitat at the Smithsonian\'s National Zoo in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Bao Bao, who now weighs 17.38 pounds (7.9 pounds), was born to the zoo\'s female giant panda Mei Xiang and male giant panda Tian Tian. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON — Who knew? Giant Pandas can catch the flu.

Panda keepers at Smithsonian’s National Zoo are taking special precautions to protect their precious charges from influenza by wearing masks.

Little Bao Bao, born on Aug. 23, 2013, doesn’t know what to think. She’s a little uneasy seeing her keepers wear masks. So, keeper Nicole MacCorkle says zoo staff members are asked to be less hands-on with her lately.

Adult pandas, mom Mei Xiang and dad Tian Tian, don’t seem to mind the masks though.

In other panda news: Tian Tian is about to get his annual exam. Because he gets put under for the procedure, The David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat will be closed Wednesday, March 19.

Mei Xiang still has access to her outdoor enclosure though Wednesday — fans may see her outside in the morning and afternoon.

Multiple late winter storms have many people tired of snow and it’s apparently losing its charm for the pandas as well. MacCorkle says with each winter storm they spend less time playing in the snow.

Once snow and ice melt away Bao Bao could play outside in the near future. Work on outdoor habitats for Bao Bao, who has yet to venture beyond the patio area of her indoor enclosures, continues.

At her last check-up Bao Bao weighed 24 pounds. She’s becoming much more independent. But keepers say her daily routine stays much the same comprised of growing, playing and sleeping.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo was closed March 17 because of the snow.

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