Fatal European Virus Spreading Across New York
A virus from Europe that kills most infected humans, especially children, has now been found in birds in the Hudson Valley and other parts of New York.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed late last week that the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus has been found in multiple wild bird species in several areas of New York State.
Highly Contagious Avian Influenza Detected in New York
The Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or bird flu, is very worrisome because while very rare in humans, most cases are fatal, according to the CDC. Mortality has been highest in people aged 10-19 years old and in young adults, officials say.
Most human bird flu cases have presented for medical care late in their illness and have been hospitalized with severe respiratory disease. However, some clinically mild cases have been reported, especially in children, the CDC states.
In the majority of cases, people got the virus after direct or close contact with sick or dead poultry that was infected with the virus.
Bird Flu Detected in Ulster, Dutchess, Long Island
Hudson Valley Post previously reported two laboratory-confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza were found in the Hudson Valley One in a pheasant flock in Dutchess County and one in a backyard flock in Ulster County, officials say.
Previously officials confirmed a non-commercial backyard flock in Suffolk County, New York tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza. The Long Island flock had a total of eight birds in it, according to New York health officials.
This recently detected strain likely came from Europe, according to the DEC, where it has been circulating since 2020. Since late November 2021, the HPAI H5N1 Eurasian strain began being detected across North America.
This outbreak expanded rapidly in mid-March 2022 in North America and HPAI has been detected in many other states, including those that share a border with New York.
Bird Flu Confirmed in Cayuga, Clinton, Fulton, Montgomery, Monroe, Onondaga, Seneca, Suffolk, Nassau, Livingston, Wayne counties
To date in New York, HPAI has been found in captive chickens, pheasants, and ducks in Dutchess, Ulster, Monroe, and Fulton counties. HPAI was detected in free-ranging wild birds in Cayuga, Clinton, Montgomery, Monroe, Onondaga, Seneca, Suffolk, Nassau, Livingston, and Wayne counties.
Wild birds confirmed as infected 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.
The CDC says the bird flu is very contagious. It's often fatal for chickens.
No known HPAI human infections have been documented recently in the U.S., according to the CDC. Healthy officials don't believe these recent cases of HPAI present an immediate public health concern.
"Avian influenza is caused by an influenza virus carried by free-flying wild birds such as ducks, geese, gulls, and shorebirds. Generally, influenza viruses can infect some wildlife species without causing signs of disease, but new strains can emerge that cause illness with high mortality in both wild birds and domestic poultry. These strains are designated as highly pathogenic, or HPAI. 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," the DEC states.
AGM officials are reaching out to poultry and egg farms across the state to ensure best practices are being implemented and to prepare for potential additional avian influenza cases in New York.
While the risk of a person becoming infected is low, New York residents are encouraged to take extra steps to prevent their flocks from becoming infected. Best practices include:
- Only harvest game that appears to be healthy
- Properly cook any game meat being eaten to an internal temperature of 165° F, which kills the virus.
- 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.
- Discourage unnecessary visitors and use biosecurity signs to warn people not to enter buildings without permission.
- Ask all visitors if they have had any contact with any birds in the past five days.
- Forbid entry to employees and visitors who own any kind of fowl.
- Require all visitors to cover and disinfect all footwear.
- Lock all entrances to chicken houses after hours.
- Avoid non-essential vehicular traffic on-farm.
- After hauling birds to processors, clean and disinfect poultry transport coops and vehicles before they return to the farm.
- Report anything unusual, especially sick or dead birds, to AGM.
- In addition to practicing good biosecurity, poultry owners should keep their birds away from wild ducks and geese and their droppings. Outdoor access for poultry should be limited at this time.
To report sick birds, an unexplained high number of deaths, or a sudden drop in egg production, please contact AGM’s Division of Animal Industry at (518) 457-3502 or the USDA at (866) 536-7593.
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