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Avian influenza found in Pondera County flock

Bird Flu Free Range
Posted at 12:43 PM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-02 14:43:24-04

GREAT FALLS - The Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) received confirmation of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in a Pondera County flock on Wednesday, April 27.

The agency said in a news release on May 2 that Montana now has eight flocks confirmed infected as part of a wave of HPAI infections in the United States linked to the seasonal migrations of wild birds. HPAI has also been detected in Judith Basin, Cascade, Toole, Glacier, Missoula, Fergus, and Gallatin counties.

“Montana continues to be in the crosshairs for HPAI infections from wild birds,” said Marty Zaluski, Montana State Veterinarian. “We hope that people are taking the risk to their poultry flocks seriously.”

The primary complaint noticed for all of Montana’s affected flocks has been a large of number of bird mortalities. Samples from these flocks are submitted to the Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MVDL) and tested for the presence of avian influenza.

Infected flocks are placed under quarantine and are required to depopulate all remaining birds on the premises to prevent further disease spread. Flock owners are eligible to receive indemnity on birds from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Depopulation of the flock is expected to begin this week.

Avian influenza is an infectious viral disease of birds that can cause high mortality rates in domestic flocks. Migratory waterfowl are the primary source for avian influenza (AI). Wild birds can be infected and appear healthy but shed virus in the feces, saliva, and respiratory secretions. Domestic poultry become infected through direct contact with infected wild birds, or through contact with contaminated objects, equipment, or the environment.

Sick birds can exhibit numerous signs such as swollen eyes, discolored comb and legs, significant drop in egg production or water and feed consumption, or sudden death. MDOL encourages all poultry producers to immediately report sudden onset of illness or high death loss in domestic poultry to their veterinarian or the department at (444-2976). If you find sick or dead wild birds that have died from unknown causes, please contact your local FWP Warden, Biologist or Regional office, or call the FWP wildlife veterinarian (577-7880).

The Montana Department of Livestock is conducting an epidemiological investigation and will be identifying other poultry producers in the area to conduct disease surveillance and to provide educational resources.

The Department continues to encourage poultry producers to implement the following biosecurity measures to protect flocks:

  • Prevent contact between wild or migratory birds and domestic poultry, including access by wild birds to feed and water sources.
  • House birds indoors to the extent possible to limit exposure to wild or migratory birds.
  • Limit visitor access to areas where birds are housed.
  • Use dedicated clothing and protective footwear when caring for domestic poultry.
  • Immediately isolate sick animals and contact your veterinarian or MDOL.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently announced a positive HPAI test in a symptomatic human involved in disease response activities. Additional testing is ongoing to determine the significance of this finding. CDC continues to consider the risk to people from wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry to be low.

Existing safeguards to keep food safe and wholesome are sufficient to protect people, and the food supply in the United States is one of the safest in the world. As a reminder, the US Department of Agriculture recommends cooking poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although the CDC considers risk of HPAI spread to humans to be very low, Montanans should take precautions when handling game birds or any sick or dead bird they find. Whenever possible, avoid contact with sick or dead wildlife. Even if a bird is not suspected to have died from a contagious disease, gloves should always be worn if a dead animal must be handled for disposal.

People are encouraged to report unusual or unexplained cases of sickness and/or death of wild birds by calling their local wildlife biologist or the wildlife lab in Bozeman at 406-577-7880 or 406-577-7882. Click here for more information on the FWP website.