Scientists share warning after bird flu found in some New York City birds

Janice Yu Image
Wednesday, April 10, 2024
Scientists share warning after bird flu found in some NYC birds
Janice Yu has the story in Central Park on a study about the bird flu.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Scientists in New York City have a new warning after a study from Mount Sinai found the highly contagious bird flu in some city birds.

Health officials are now warning if you come across a bird or any other animal that is sick, dead or acting strange -- stay away.

Only two human cases of bird flu have been reported in the country since 2022 and the CDC says the current risk to the general public is low -- but it is important to be cautious.

In 2022, Rita McMahon with the Wild Bird Fund, along with the Icahn School of Medicine, the Krammer Lab at the Icahn School of Medicine and Bio Bus teamed up to form the NYC Virus Hunters.

"People don't believe there's wildlife here, but we're really very, very rich in wildlife because we're on the Atlantic Flyway and we have so many places for the birds to stop over during migration," McMahon said.

Researchers and local students spent nearly two years collecting samples from a wide range of birds, including ones we see often like ducks and geese, to raptors.

Their findings were published earlier this month.

"We detected six viruses in birds that were the New York City area," said Dr. Philip Meade with the Icahn School of Medicine. "We found them in green spaces in New York City, even in Manhattan where a chicken was running loose."

Other birds that tested positive for the H5N1 strain include geese in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn, a red-tailed hawk in Queens, and a peregrine falcon in the Bronx.

Around the globe the virus has impacted animals like foxes and cattle -- and two humans in the U.S. are also known to have been infected. Both people had prolonged contact with infected animals and neither case was fatal.

In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program caught it while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered.

This week, Texas health officials announced that a person who had been in contact with cows had been diagnosed with bird flu. Their only reported symptom was eye redness.

Experts say New Yorkers can keep themselves safe by using common sense.

"We have to think if we see a sick animal, any kind of animal, take care precautions, wear gloves, a mask, and be sure you have something between you and the animal," McMahon said. "If you're trying to rescue it, keep your pets away, your children away from any sick animal."

U.S. health officials have stressed that the current public health risk is low and that there is no sign that bird flu is spreading person to person.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

ALSO READ | The largest fresh egg producer in the US has found bird flu in chickens at a Texas plant

Approximately 1.6 million laying hens and 337,000 pullets were destroyed after avian influenza was found in the flock.


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