Bird Flu Cases Pose Little Risk To Humans: Health Officials

As a number of bird flu cases have been reported across the United States, with several popping up in New York, health officials have told the public to be aware of the slim but present risk of contracting the disease.

The virus, officially called H5N1, was detected in several birds in New York, according to recently published findings by scholars and students at the Icahn School of Medicine. Their research concluded a two-year project of sample collection that found viruses in commonly encountered birds like geese, falcons, hawks and chickens.

However, there have only been two positive cases of bird flu transmitted to people in the United States since 2022, leading national health officials to assure the public that there is little risk to humans.

Philip Meade, a postdoctoral fellow at the medical school who was involved in the research, has shared that a number of positive cases were identified in different kinds of birds found in Marcus Garvey Park in New York City.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation’s only human case in 2022 was found in a poultry worker in Colorado. Earlier this month, a Texas resident who had been in contact with dairy cows was also infected. Both cases were reportedly minor.

The federal health agency has told the public that they will not contract the virus by simply “walk[ing] past a sick goose” but also encouraged them to “limit contact with wildlife” as a precaution against infection. The CDC also said that there is “no evidence of bird flu spreading among humans.”

Meade reported that the work of his research team had uncovered “six viruses in birds” in and around the Big Apple. Specifically, the infected animals were found “in green spaces” in the city, including “in Manhattan where a chicken was running loose.”

Additionally, geese in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn tested positive as well as a red-tailed hawk in Queens and a peregrine falcon in the Bronx.

The recent research report followed an alert issued by the CDC less than a week ago, in which the agency encouraged medical professionals and the public to be aware of potential bird flu infections. Symptoms of the virus in humans can be as mild as a cough, sore throat or fever and could be more serious, including confusion, respiratory difficulties and seizures.