Avian Influenza Continues Its Urban Invasion: New York City Still at Risk

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A recent study has unveiled the persistent presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in the avian population within New York City’s urban environment.

Researchers stumbled upon the H5N1 virus, the culprit behind avian influenza, in six samples extracted from four distinct bird species. Further genetic sequencing revealed the existence of various genotypes, indicating a diverse strain pool.

This discovery underscores the potential for zoonotic infections or even pandemics to emerge not only in rural settings or commercial poultry farms but also within the bustling urban cores, as outlined in a preliminary paper published last week on Biorxiv. The repository, owned by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Laurel Hollow, N.Y., serves as a platform for the dissemination of biological science research.

Public health officials are now on high alert, fearing potential outbreaks among U.S. residents. Additionally, the study dismantles the notion that HPAI transmission is solely tied to migratory routes of wild birds during winter and spring. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued warnings to healthcare providers, urging vigilance for signs of HPAI infections in humans. Recent cases involve two infected U.S. residents, possibly exposed after the virus leaped to older dairy cows in the preceding month.

Since the onset of the latest HPAI spread in February 2022, New York State alone has witnessed 25,872 bird cases, according to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Nationwide, an alarming 82 million HPAI cases have been confirmed in U.S. poultry during the same period, as reported by USDA.