Bird flu confirmed in Cascade, Judith Basin counties


Cascade County City-County Health Department said this week that bird flu has been confirmed in a small layer and meat-bird operation.

The highly pathogenic avian influenza, HPAI, has also been confirmed in Judith Basin County, according to CCHD.

These are the first cases of HPAI reported in  domestic poultry in Montana since 2015. Montana is the 25th state to report cases of HPAI in domestic poultry in 2022, according to the Montana Department of Livestock.

“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. Wild birds can be infected and appear healthy but shed virus in 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 strain confirmed in Cascade County is the H5 strain,.” according to CCHD.

No human infections have been detected at this time.

The affected flocks have been placed under quarantine and will be killed to prevent further spread of the disease, according to CCHD. The flock owners are eligible to receive indemnity from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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

As a result of bird flu being detected in two Montana counties and the scope of the national outbreak, the MDOL issued an official order prohibiting all poultry shows, exhibitions, swaps and public sales for the next 60 days to reduce the risk of exposure to HPAI.

“Exhibitions are an increased risk of HPAI because animals from multiple sources are concentrated in one area during the event. Cancellation of shows and exhibitions is a proactive step to prevent disease in our domestic poultry population. Depending on disease status in 60 days, this order may be modified or extended. The order does not apply to private, catalog, or retail sale of poultry,” according to CCHD.

Poultry producers should implement biosecurity measures, according to MDOL, including:

  • 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.

“Existing safeguards to keep food safe are sufficient to protect people. The virus is rarely found in food and is readily destroyed by cooking,” according to CCHD.

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.

The MDOL encourages all poultry producers to immediately report sudden onset of illness or high death loss in domestic poultry to their veterinarian or the MDOL at 406-444-2976.

If you find sick or dead wild birds that have died from unknown causes, contact your local FWP warden, biologist or regional office, or call the FWP wildlife veterinarian at 406-577-7880.