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Detection of clade 2.3.4.4b highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus in New York City.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses of the H5N1 clade 2.3.4.4b were detected in North America in the winter of 2021/2022. These viruses have spread across the Americas, causing morbidity and mortality in both wild and domestic birds as well as some mammalian species, including cattle. Many surveillance programs for wildlife as well as commercial poultry operations have detected these viruses. In this study, we conducted surveillance of avian species in the urban environment in New York City. We detected highly pathogenic H5N1 viruses in six samples from four different bird species and performed whole-genome sequencing. Sequencing analysis showed the presence of multiple different genotypes. Our work highlights that the interface between animals and humans that may give rise to zoonotic infections or even pandemics is not limited to rural environments and commercial poultry operations but extends into the heart of our urban centers.IMPORTANCEWhile surveillance programs for avian influenza viruses are often focused on migratory routes and their associated stop-over locations or commercial poultry operations, many bird species-including migratory birds-frequent or live in urban green spaces and wetlands. This brings them into contact with a highly dense population of humans and pets, providing an extensive urban animal-human interface in which the general public may have little awareness of circulating infectious diseases. This study focuses on virus surveillance of this interface, combined with culturally responsive science education and community outreach.

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