Public asked to report cases of sick or dead birds, both wild and domestic
By Megan Plete Postol
The Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus has been detected in multiple wild bird species across New York state, including counties in the Adirondack region, the Department of Environmental Conservation announced last week.
No known human infections have been documented in the United States at this time, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The first detected pocket of HPAI in New York was found in a domestic flock in Suffolk County in February of this year, and since that time, has been detected in other backyard poultry flocks, gamebird breeder facilities, and shooting preserves throughout the state. This includes captive chickens, pheasants, and ducks in Dutchess, Ulster, Monroe, and Fulton counties.
HPAI has been 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. Many species of waterfowl, including shorebirds, gulls, raptors, herons and cranes, are also vulnerable to HPAI.
There are no documented cases of small songbirds affected by HPAI in New York or in other states across the nation. Confirmed wild bird infections are listed on the USDA website.
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.
This recent outbreak likely originated in Europe, the DEC said, where it has been circulating since 2020.
DEC is actively working with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the state Department of Health, and Cornell University to track and monitor the HPAI outbreak in the state’s wild birds.
Individuals can help by reporting any suspicious deaths of birds to their regional DEC office.
“DEC requests the public report sick or dead waterfowl, shorebirds, gulls and raptors to a local regional office so that we can track occurrences of HPAI,” DEC Wildlife Bureau Chief Jim Farquhar said. “This information is helpful not only to understand the scope of the outbreak, but also to alert nearby owners of backyard flocks and commercial poultry producers to remain vigilant with good biosecurity measures to protect their investment.”
While uncommon, HPAI can be transmitted from bird to human. The risk of infection is low, but there are still a few things people can do to protect themselves. Wear gloves, masks, and eye protection while handling wild birds, particularly waterfowl, gulls, and raptors. Wash hands thoroughly after handling wild birds. Only harvest game that appears to be healthy. Cook all game meat an internal temperature of 165° F, which kills the virus.