ALBANY, N.Y. (WWTI) — Bird flu is on the rise in New York.
On April 20, the Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed that the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus, or Bird Flu, has been found in multiple wild bird species across New York.
DEC warned that HPAI outbreaks in wild birds are often cyclical and tied to migration when birds are concentrated in large numbers.
HPAI was detected 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.
According to DEC, Avian Influenza is caused by an influenza virus carried by wild birds such as ducks, geese, gulls and shorebirds. Overall, influenza can infect some wildlife species, but new strains can immerge with high mortality rates among wild birds and domestic poultry.
The recently detected HPAI strain likely originated in Europe and has been circulating since 2020. Since late November 2021, the HPAI H5N1 Eurasian strain began being detected across North America. This outbreak spread in mid-March 2022 and has been detected in many other states, including those that share a border with New York.
The first case of HPAI was found in New York in February 2022 in a domestic flock in Suffolk County. Since then, the virus has been detected in domestic poultry flocks, gamebird breeder facilities and shooting preserves.
However, as spring migrations end this year and birds spread out on the landscape during the nesting season, disease transmission is expected to decrease.
Additionally, DEC confirmed that there have been no known HPAI human infections in the U.S., and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these recent cases of HPAI do not present an immediate public health concern.
While the risk of a person becoming infected is low, individuals can protect themselves by only harvesting game that appears to be healthy and properly cooking any game meat being eaten to an internal temperature of 165° F, which kills the virus.
New York has also banned all fowl auctions, live fowl shows and exhibitions until further notice to prevent the spread of bird flu.
If handling wild birds, particularly waterfowl, gulls, and raptors, individuals should follow precautions such as using personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, and eye protection and washing hands thoroughly.