Aspergillosis is an infectious disease, caused most commonly by Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillus flavus, both of which are both common types of mould. The infection has an incubation period of two to five days, and in young chicks, it can have a mortality rate of up to 50%.
Aspergillosis occurs in all types of poultry, including chickens, turkeys, ducks, penguins, game birds, waterfowl across the UK and around the world. Regions with hot and humid seasons are at higher risk, as it becomes easier to incubate mould.
It can also infect plant material and is known to, on occasion, infect humans. Although it isn’t deadly to humans, it can have a range of detrimental effects on human health.
The principal funguses that cause Aspergillosis are Aspergillus Fumigatus and Aspergillus flavus. Research suggests that a high concentration of Aspergillus moulds are required to cause an infection, but a high bird density in an area with reduced ventilation can contribute.
Aspergillosis is transmitted by the inhalation of spores from contaminated litter like wood shavings or straw and contaminated feed, with the spores being highly resistant to disinfectants. It can also easily spread amongst chicks in hatcheries, as in certain conditions, the disease can penetrate the eggshell and contaminate hatching eggs.
However, the disease is not a transmissible one, which means it does not spread from bird to bird.
Some of the most common signs of Aspergillosis include gasping, coughing and rapid breathing in birds, along with depression and thirstiness. Other signs include lethargy, listlessness and weight loss. Following an infection, yellow-green granular fungus can be found in body cavities and lesions can be found in the lungs and air sacs. The mortality rate can be up to 50%.
There are many different tests that can be undertaken to diagnose aspergillosis, including a complete blood count, radiographs, antibody tests and surgical laparoscopy. Aspergillosis can also be confirmed microscopically by the identification of the Aspergillus Fumigatus fungus in lesions. It can be observed by eye in lesions in the lungs and in the abdominal cavity.
Treatment and control
Aspergillosis is a difficult disease to treat, and even more so to cure. In many scenarios, affected birds must be culled. This can be devastating for bird keepers, not just economically but also emotionally. The location of the infection can affect an antifungal drug’s ability to treat the birds, and this treatment can take weeks to months. The success of the treatment also relies on the bird’s immune system.
Cleaning and disinfection procedures to control fungus infection is critical, as is using robust biosecurity measures. Strict hatchery hygiene and using quality litter are also vital.
Livetec are the leaders in biosecurity
The UK is experiencing unprecedentedly high levels of disease now. We are in the worst avian influenza outbreak since records began. Diseases like Salmonella and e.Coli are still here.
The best protection is prevention. Livetec calls on decades of experience in preventing disease incursions with stringent biosecurity measures. We create bespoke plans that are designed to mitigate the risk of infection and protect the welfare of your flock and your farm business. Our plans encompass our evidence based thinking to deliver best practices, which follow the latest legislation.
To find out how we can help prevent Aspergillosis and help you plan for future success click here.