Three grizzly bears have been euthanized in Montana after they turned in poor health and examined constructive for the extremely pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus, based on the state’s Division of Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
These have been the primary documented instances of hen flu in a grizzly in Montana and the primary nationwide for this outbreak of HPAI, based on Dr. Jennifer Ramsey, the division’s wildlife veterinarian.
The juvenile bears have been in three separate places within the western a part of the state through the fall, the Division of Fish, Wildlife & Parks stated in an announcement.
The bears “have been noticed to be in poor situation and exhibited disorientation and partial blindness, amongst different neurological points,” the assertion stated. “They have been euthanized attributable to their illness and poor situation.”
Avian influenza – generally known as hen flu – is a naturally occurring virus that spreads shortly in birds. There have been documented instances of HPAI in a skunk and a fox in Montana final yr, and the virus has been seen in raccoons, black bears and a coyote in different states and nations, based on the Montana company.
“The virus is unfold from one hen to a different,” Dr. Ramsey instructed CNN through electronic mail. “These mammals seemingly received contaminated from consuming carcasses of HPAI contaminated birds.”
“Fortuitously, in contrast to avian instances, usually small numbers of mammal instances have been reported in North America,” Ramsey stated. “For now, we’re persevering with to check any bears that reveal neurologic signs or for which a reason for loss of life is unknown.”
Whereas discovering three grizzlies with hen flu in a brief time period might elevate considerations, Ramsey stated it could be that there have been extra instances that haven’t been detected.
“When wildlife mortalities happen in such small numbers or people, and in species like skunks, foxes and bears that don’t spend quite a lot of time in conditions the place they’re extremely seen to the general public, they are often laborious to detect,” the wildlife veterinarian stated.
“If you get that first detection you have a tendency to begin wanting more durable, and also you’re extra prone to discover new instances,” she stated. “When a lot of birds are discovered lifeless on a physique of water, it will get observed and reported… when somebody sees a lifeless skunk, they could assume nothing of it and never report it.”
Whereas it’s unknown simply how prevalent the virus is in wild birds, “we all know that the virus is energetic principally throughout the complete state because of the broad distribution of instances of HPAI mortality in some species of untamed birds,” Ramsey stated.
The US Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention stated in November the nation was approaching “a report quantity of birds affected in comparison with earlier hen flu outbreaks,” with greater than 49 million birds in 46 states dying or being killed attributable to publicity to contaminated birds.
Human infections with hen flu are uncommon however are attainable, “often after shut contact with contaminated birds. The present threat to most people from hen flu viruses is low,” the CDC says on its web site.
The Montana Division of Fish, Wildlife & Parks is asking individuals to report any birds or animals performing “uncommon or unexplained instances of illness and/or loss of life.”