Highly pathogenic avian influenza found in wild birds in Montana
HELENA – Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus was detected in a snow goose from Canyon Ferry and a Canada goose near Belgrade last week. HPAI was detected earlier this month in domestic poultry in Judith Basin and Cascade counties. Several more birds from around the state are currently undergoing testing for the virus.
Avian influenza (AI) virus is a naturally occurring virus in birds. AI viruses are classified into two groups, based on the severity of disease they cause in infected poultry. Low pathogenic AI viruses generally cause no clinical illness or only minor symptoms in birds. HPAI viruses are extremely infectious and fatal to poultry and some species of wild birds.
Detection of HPAI in Newfoundland and Labrador in eastern Canada was announced in December 2021. Since it was first detected in the eastern United States in January 2022, it has spread to all four bird migration flyways, including the Central and Pacific flyways which include parts of Montana. This is the first time since 2015 that HPAI has been detected in Montana, when it was identified in a captive gyrfalcon and then shortly afterward in a backyard poultry flock in Judith Basin County.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the 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.
The public is 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.
Bird hunters and those who maintain bird feeders should follow these simple precautions when processing or handling wild game:
• Do not harvest or handle wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead.
• Wear disposable latex or rubber gloves while cleaning game or cleaning bird feeders.
• Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game.
• People and equipment that have been in contact with wild game birds should avoid contact with backyard poultry flocks.
• Wash hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes immediately after handling game or cleaning bird feeders.
• Wash tools and work surfaces used to clean game birds with soap and water, then disinfect with a 10 percent solution of chlorine bleach—one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water.
• Separate raw meat, and anything it touches, from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination.
• Cook game meat thoroughly to an internal temperature of at least 165°F.
• Wild birds don’t need supplemental feed this time of year. Taking feeders down prevents concentrations of birds that sometimes lead to disease transmission.
For more information on AI in wild birds, visit https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/diseases/avian-influenza, or visit the USGS website at https://www.usgs.gov/centers/nwhc/science/avian-influenza-surveillance.