Some birds in Montana have been tested recently and found to be infected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, which has been confirmed in central and western states, including Montana.

On Friday, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Communications Director Greg Lemon hosted a ZOOM press conference, with principal speakers Dr. Marty Zaluski from Montana Department of Livestock and Dr. Jennifer Ramsey from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Dr. Zaluski, the state’s official veterinarian, opened with this statement.

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“The Department of Livestock has been dealing with what we call ‘high path avian influenza’ for obviously several weeks,” said Dr. Zaluski. “This is a virus that is known to circulate in wild migratory birds, particularly waterfowl, but not exclusively.”

Dr. Zaluski said the potential impact on domestic birds is being taken very seriously, although various officials throughout the call maintained that there was no immediate danger to Montana’s food supply.

“It does cause significant impacts on poultry health,” he said “So when it affects chickens it can cause 90 percent or greater mortality. We're also concerned because it really could affect our international trade status which is a multi-billion dollar industry, for poultry and poultry products.”

Dr. Zaluski said all affected domestic birds have been ‘depopulated’.

“We've tested seven flocks, and we have two pending tests, so basically we have nine tests that have been done or are in process,” he said. “We have four positives, two of which are just small backyard operations, kind of hobby operations and two of the four  have some commercial presence. All of those have either been depopulated or are in the process of being depopulated.”

Dr. Zaluski said definitively that the public food supply is safe.

“Regarding the food supply, I think we do get some questions regarding the safety of food and, and I want to be very clear and make a special point to say that this does not have an impact on the safety of food,” he said. “We just recommend that that people follow normal food preparation practices that keep them healthy every day.”

Following are some points released to the public during the Friday press conference.

‘Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in states throughout the central and western United States as well as Montana. Although avian influenza is a highly contagious disease to domestic poultry, there are no apparent risks to human health at this time. It is safe to eat properly handled and cooked poultry products, including meat and eggs. Good bio-security helps keep birds healthy: Minimize contact with wild birds or other poultry. Sanitize equipment and clothing used around them. Control access to poultry pens. Monitor your birds closely and contact your veterinarian and the Montana Department of Livestock immediately if you suspect illness at 406-444-2976.’

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