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Bird Flu Strikes NYC Park Birds 

Holland McKinnie
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New York City health officials have reported that several birds found in Manhattan’s Marcus Garvey Park have tested positive for bird flu. Infected birds include geese, a peregrine falcon and a red-tailed hawk. The latest outbreak is raising new concerns about spread of the H5N1 virus in densely populated locations.

Icahn School of Medicine Fellow Philip Meade strongly cautioned the public to keep a safe distance from wildlife to reduce the risk of transmission and infection. He emphasized that the danger of infection comes from direct contact. “You’re not gonna walk past a sick goose and get the bird flu. It won’t work like that,” he said.

Despite the presence of H5N1 in city parks, the risk to human health remains low. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued advisories describing the transmission rates from human to human. Since 2022, there have been just two cases of human H5N1 infection in the U.S. Both of those cases reported mild symptoms and involved persons who had been in close contact with infected animals.

The CDC has not found any evidence of bird flu spreading among humans. Nevertheless, they continue to monitor the situation closely, given the virus’s potential to affect many animal species, including migratory and local birds. The agency advises healthcare providers to remain vigilant for potential cases.

The virus’s presence in New York City comes as infections have seen an uptick nationally in recent weeks. Texas in particular has seen outbreaks in flocks of wild birds ending the winter there. The disease has shown a propensity to transmit across species, and has impacted domestic poultry and dairy cows in agricultural areas.

All persons in the city have been advised to avoid touching sick or dead animals and report any sightings to health officials. Anyone who must handle any wild animal or their droppings is strongly cautioned to wear gloves and use extreme caution. 

Cities are not isolated from the natural occurrences that affect rural and wilderness areas. Wildlife will thrive in almost any environment, and birds especially are integral to the ecological network. Their extensive migratory routes inevitably impact local animal and human populations.