Helena, Mont. – On Monday, July 24, the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) announced confirmation of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in a Flathead County backyard poultry flock. This is the 10th HPAI affected Montana flock linked to a 2022 wave of HPAI infections in the United States traced to seasonal migrations of wild birds. Nationally, nearly 400 poultry flocks have been diagnosed with HPAI.
“With over 2 months since our last case of HPAI in the state, we had hoped that avian influenza was behind us,” said Marty Zaluski, Montana state veterinarian. “Unfortunately, the risk seems to persist, and poultry owners should continue to practice enhanced biosecurity measures.”
The primary complaint noticed for all of Montana’s HPAI affected flocks has been sudden and significant death loss of domestic poultry and waterfowl. A pond on or near the HPAI affected flock has been a common feature.
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. Samples from these flocks are submitted to the Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MVDL) and tested for the presence of avian influenza. The department 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 (406/444-2976). 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 (406/577-7880).
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.
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.
While HPAI is considered a potentially zoonotic disease, 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.
The mission of the Montana Department of Livestock is to control and eradicate animal diseases, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans, and to protect the livestock industry from theft and predatory animals. For more information on the Montana Department of Livestock, visit www.liv.mt.gov.