Coccidiosis is a disease of the intestinal tract of animals caused by the protozoan parasites of the subclass Coccidia, genus Eimeria. It is spread among animals when they come into contact with infected faeces and ingest infected tissue.
It affects a wide range of mammals such as rabbits, dogs, goats, cattle and chickens. Sometimes it can even infect humans but is not fatal and in most cases does not cause any major health issues.
Chickens are very susceptible to this disease, especially young chicks. There are 9 species of the parasite that specifically affect chickens, with an incubation period of four to seven days. It can compromise their digestion and in some rare cases, can cause death but overall has a low mortality rate. However, infections can have serious economic consequences.
Coccidiosis is caused by single-celled parasites of the subclass Coccidia, genus Eimeria. In chickens there are 9 species, some of which can be highly pathogenic. As it is primarily passed on in droppings it spreads rapidly in confined conditions. If one bird has it, the chances of an entire flock getting it are heightened.
The disease is not passed on from bird to bird. The main transmission between birds is through oral ingestion of infected faeces, so the environment the birds are kept in can increase the spread of the disease. They can also catch it by ingesting other infected tissues.
Clinical signs depend on the species of the parasite infecting the flock and usually just occur in the young. As the disease affects the intestinal tract, diarrhoea is the primary symptom and in some severe cases can become bloody. Other symptoms can include a severe loss of weight, dysentery and dehydration. Although mortality rates are low they can rise if chickens get secondary infections.
Diarrhoea in several young chicks is indicative of the disease. It can be confirmed by testing for the presence of oocysts in the faeces. Diagnosis can also be based on a post-mortem examination, including mucosal scrapings of the middle intestine of infected birds.
Treatment and Control
Anticoccidial chemicals are used but their effectiveness is limited as a resistance to them can develop very quickly. The most effective control program is to develop immunity. Vaccination is already used to control the disease in long-life bird populations like breeding and egg laying birds.
In all environments, the need for robust biosecurity measures is crucial as it limits the ability for a disease to occur, and also to spread quickly within a flock.
Livetec are the leaders in biosecurity
Strict hygiene like cleaning out droppings and disinfection procedures to control the disease are critical and form part of biosecurity.
Livetec offers a unique Biosecurity Advisory Service, backed by years of on-farm experience and evidence based research. With this robust service, one of our experts conducts an on-site review of your operations and advises you on implementing the most effective biosecurity measures.
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