Is it time to stop kissing sick birds?

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New Yorkers, beware: If you come across a bird or animal that is sick, dead or behaving strangely, keep yourself and your pets at a safe distance.
The bird flu virus, H5N1, is present in at least some small fraction of New York City birds, according to a new study.
The finding is not entirely surprising, given that H5N1 has now been shown to affect migratory birds, a wide range of wild animals, poultry and, as of last month, dairy cows.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned health care providers to watch for signs of bird flu infection.
So far, only two Americans have been reported as infected with H5N1, one in 2022 and the other earlier this month.
The virus has caused large outbreaks in mink and foxes, and wiped out thousands of marine mammals, especially in South America.
Scientists have tracked the virus along migratory routes and stopovers, among wild birds in rural areas and commercial poultry operations and, most recently, among cattle on dairy farms.
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People in New York, take caution: keep yourself and your pets well away from any sick, dead, or oddly acting birds or animals that you come across. Based on a recent study, the H5N1 bird flu virus is found in a small percentage of birds in New York City.

Given that H5N1 has been shown to impact migratory birds, a variety of wild animals, poultry, and, as of last month, dairy cows, the finding is not wholly surprising. That being said, finding it in the city serves as an uncomfortable reminder that even urban areas are not immune.

Florian Krammer, a flu expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, led the study, which was published online last week. He noted that people typically associate zoonotic diseases with rural areas, farms, or the wilderness.

He added, however, that there are plenty of green areas and bodies of water in New York City that are utilized by both local and migratory birds. “There is an extensive interface between wild animals and humans in cities.”. “.

He went on, “It’s important to be aware of it, but there’s no need to panic.”.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alerted medical professionals to the possibility of bird flu last week. Only two cases of H5N1 infection in Americans have been documented thus far; one occurred in 2022 and the other earlier this month.

The virus has killed thousands of marine mammals, mostly in South America, and caused widespread outbreaks in foxes and mink. Researchers have followed the virus’s migration paths and rest stops, as well as its movements among wild birds in rural areas, commercial chicken operations, and, most recently, dairy farm cattle.

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