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Highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu, was detected in a Canada goose near Belgrade last week.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced the positive case in a release on Monday. A snow goose in Canyon Ferry also tested positive for the virus.

This year is the first time that the virus has been detected in Montana since 2015, according to the release. A gyrfalcon tested positive then, followed by a backyard domestic poultry flock shortly after.

Morgan Jacobsen, a spokesperson for FWP, said that the Canada goose was already dead when a member of the public found it. The bird was brought to the state agency’s Wildlife Health Lab in Bozeman. Tests at the lab found the bird to be carrying the virus.

Jacobsen said it was unclear if the bird was migrating. He added that a lot of geese tend to stay and nest in Montana.

The first detection of the virus was in Labrador and Newfoundland in eastern Canada late last year, according to the release. Since then, the virus moved to the eastern U.S. in January and has spread through all four bird migration flyways.

The Central and Pacific flyways include parts of Montana.

Jacobsen said that it is possible for the virus to spread among wild birds. Waterfowl can carry the virus without showing any symptoms and can spread the avian influenza to other birds.

How the agency responds to infected wild birds depends on the prevalence and density of the infections, Jacobsen said.

The chances of the virus spreading to humans is low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 700 people have been reported as being infected with the virus since 2003, with the first case of infection showing up in North America in 2014.

The majority of cases stem from people making contact with sick or dead poultry.

Migratory waterfowl are the primary transmission source of the virus into domestic poultry flocks, according to an April 8 release from the Montana Department of Livestock.

Two flocks of domestic poultry — one in Cascade County, the other in Judith Basin County — tested positive for the virus earlier this month, according to the release. Montana was the 25th state to report cases of the virus this year.

The infected flocks were required to be placed under quarantine and killed.

The state agency enacted a 60-day order prohibiting poultry shows, exhibitions, swaps and sales to reduce the spread of the virus.

The order is still in effect, and could be extended depending on the spread of the virus.

Jacobsen said that FWP needs help from the public in identifying cases of the virus in wild birds.

He said people should contact the agency if they come across a bird where the cause of death is unexplained or mysterious. Wearing gloves when handling a bird carcass is suggested.

Any equipment that a potentially infected bird has come in contact with should be cleaned.

If someone finds a sick bird where the illness is unusual, they should call FWP, too.

People can contact 406-577-7880 or 406-577-7882 to report unusual or unexplained sickness or death in wild birds.

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Alex Miller is the county and state government reporter and can be reached at amiller@dailychronicle.com or by phone at 406-582-2648.

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