Avian Flu spreading among wild bird populations

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The Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus has been detected in multiple wild bird species across New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation has announced.

While no known human infections have been documented in the United States at this time, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease has spread among both domestic poultry and wild birds since it was found in a domestic flock in Suffolk County in February.

The disease been detected among captive chickens, pheasants, and ducks in: Dutchess, Ulster, Monroe, and Fulton counties as well as in free-ranging wild birds in Cayuga, Clinton, Montgomery, Monroe, Onondaga, Seneca, Suffolk, Nassau, Livingston, and Wayne counties.

Infected wild birds include snow geese, Canada geese, tundra swan, mute swan, sanderling, mallard duck, redhead duck, ring-necked duck, wood duck, hooded merganser, great blue heron, bald eagles, great horned owls, snowy owl, cooper’s hawk, red-tailed hawk, fish crow, and turkey vulture. Many species of waterfowl, including shorebirds, gulls, raptors, herons and cranes, are also vulnerable.

There are no documented cases of small songbirds affected by HPAI in New York or in other states across the nation. Confirmed wild bird infections are listed on the USDA website and on the U.S.

HPAI outbreaks in wild birds are often cyclical and tied to migration when birds are concentrated in large numbers. As birds spread out on the landscape during the nesting season, disease transmission is expected to decrease.

This recent outbreak likely originated in Europe, the DEC said, where it has been circulating since 2020. DEC is actively working with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (AGM) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the State Department of Health, and Cornell University to track and monitor this HPAI outbreak in the state’s wild bird population.

Individuals can help the state’s efforts by reporting any suspicious deaths of bird species listed above to their regional DEC office.

While uncommon, HPAI can be transmitted from bird to human. The risk of infection is low, but there are still a few things people can do to protect themselves. Wear gloves, masks, and eye protection while handling wild birds, particularly waterfowl, gulls, and raptors. Wash hands thoroughly after handling wild birds. Only harvest game that appears to be healthy. Cook all game meat an internal temperature of 165° F, which kills the virus.

More information can be found online at: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/avian-influenza

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