Experts warn of ‘uncharted waters’ as Montana officials track bird flu outbreak

ISABEL HICKS Bozeman Daily Chronicle

BOZEMAN — This year’s bird flu outbreak continues to plague the U.S., with veterinary diagnostic labs working longer hours to test birds for the virus that historically has tapered off in June.

Employees at the Bozeman-based Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, which tests samples from wild and domestic birds, have yet to cease avian influenza testing this year. They’ve tested more than 600 birds for the virus.

“The virus is still going strong,” said lab director Gregory Juda. “We’re continuing to test (for bird flu). There have been lots of submissions.”

Juda said the lab was busiest with bird flu testing in late spring. The testing tapered off this summer, but then picked back up again, somewhat unexpectedly, in the fall.

This year saw the nation’s first major outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza since 2014-2015, and the new strain, H5N1, appears to be more transmissible and deadly than in year’s past — especially to wild birds, experts say.

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