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More instances of avian influenza confirmed in Flathead County



Helena, Montana – A small flock of backyard chickens in Flathead County died on December 15 as a result of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), according to the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL).

Since the outbreak’s beginning in March, there have been 16 flocks in the state that have been afflicted by HPAI. According to the MDOL, the 2022 HPAI strain continues to have a substantial impact on the backyard and commercial flocks, affecting approximately 56 million birds nationwide across 47 states.

Avian influenza is a contagious viral illness that can kill a lot of birds in home flocks. Waterfowl that migrate are the main source of HPAI.

The virus is spread by infected wild birds in their feces, saliva, and respiratory secretions even though they appear healthy. Direct contact with wild birds, as well as interaction with contaminated objects, equipment, or the environment, are the two main ways that domestic chickens become sick.

“HPAI has impacted over 80,000 domestic birds in Montana,” stated Montana State Veterinarian Martin Zaluski. “The impacts of this year’s disease outbreak are substantial.”

Birds that are infected or ill can display a variety of symptoms, including enlarged eyes, discolored comb, and legs, a sharp decline in egg production, or a reduction in water and feed consumption.

The MDOL adds that in Montana, where impacted flocks have seen substantial death loss, the most common symptom has been the abrupt death of several birds within a flock.

To stop the spread of the disease, infected flocks are quarantined, and all remaining birds on the property must be depopulated. Owners of flocks are qualified to receive compensation from the United States Department of Agriculture for depopulated birds (USDA).

In addition to placing restrictions on the endangered flock, MDOL will monitor poultry facilities within a 6-mile radius of the affected premises for disease. In addition to weekly sampling for locations that might sell poultry or poultry products, surveillance includes contact with the premises to find out whether any sick birds are present.

The MDOL has resumed recommendations for housing birds indoors, including those included in certified organic programs, in response to continuous detections and continues to stress the significance of biosecurity. Before bringing birds indoors, certified organic producers should get in touch with their certifier to check program compliance.

Biosecurity measures to protect flocks include:

• 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 MDOL advises all poultry farmers to contact their veterinarian or the Department at 406-444-2976 as soon as a severe sickness or excessive death loss in domestic poultry occurs.

Please inform your local Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks warden, biologist, or regional office if you encounter sick or dead wild birds that have passed away from unknown causes. You can also phone the FWP wildlife veterinarian at 406-577-7880.

The MDOL reports that while CDC continues to view the risk to humans from wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry as low, HPAI is still regarded as a possible zoonotic illness.

People can be protected by the current measures in place to make food healthy and safe, and the American food supply is one of the safest in the world. The US Department of Agriculture advises cooking poultry at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, in case you forgot. includes additional information from the US Centers for Disease Control regarding the risk for people and pets.

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