Three grizzly bears have tested positive for a highly contagious strain of bird flu (HPAI) in Montana, according to a report in Newsweek. This is the first time that the disease has been found in grizzly bears. The three bears - one near Augusta, one near Duputer and another near Kalispell - exhibited disorientation and partial blindness and were in poor condition, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP). The three juvenile bears were later euthanised due to the severity of their symptoms, FWP said in the January 17 statement.
The three bears had tested positive in the fall of 2022 and were found to be suffering from neurological issues, the Newsweek article further said.
A fox and a skunk in Montana had also tested positive for HPAI last year and the virus has been found in raccoons, black bears and coyote in other US states and, according to KPAX.
"We suspect these mammals probably get the virus from consuming infected birds," FWP Wildlife Veterinarian Jennifer Ramsey was quoted as saying by the outlet.
Avian influenza is a viral disease that spreads through direct contact with infected birds and the virus enters the body through respiratory tract.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 57 million poultry across the US were infected by HPAI till January 11. Most of these have died or been culled.
The bird flu spreads in both "low pathogenic" and "highly pathogenic" forms. While the first one causes onely minor symptoms in birds, the highly pathogenic variants can be deadly.
According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, HPAI has become common in several countries, including Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, Egypt, India, and Indonesia.