Fowl pox is a pox virus that mostly affects chickens, but can also affect turkeys, pheasants and pigeons.
There are two types of Fowl Pox, dry pox and wet pox. Dry pox, the most common, develops wart-like eruptions in the skin and the rarer wet pox forms ulcerous masses in the mouth, nose and sometimes throat areas, in some cases this can lead to death. It is known to be a very painful condition for those infected, and can be hard to remove.
It is a common disease in unvaccinated backyard chickens. Most chickens will recover from it in two to three weeks and develop an immunity to the disease after infection. The biggest impact is a reduction in egg production and poor weight gains. This can have a negative impact on a flock keeper’s finances.
Fowl pox is caused by a virus of the family Poxviridae and the genus Avripoxvirus, and is often transmitted by mosquitoes, or new birds being introduced to a flock, that may be carriers of the disease.
As it can spread from bird to bird it thrives in spaces where birds are close together. Making sure your chickens have space to move around can limit the spread of this disease. The incubation period can be from four to 20 days.
Biting insects can carry the virus from one bird to another, but it’s more common for it to be spread by shedding from fowl pox wounds on an infected bird entering an uninfected bird through skin wounds. Pox viruses that infect mammals can also be spread through the air, which can be another way in which it is transmitted to birds. If birds are housed in confined spaces, this can see the virus spreading rapidly.
The virus can also remain in close quarters for extended periods of time and in some cases, can be spread by fomites, which are objects or materials that can hold infections.
In the dry pox type of fowl pox, lesions are mainly found on the head and in the case of wet pox lesions are found in the oral cavity and throat areas. The lesions have a wart-like appearance and in the dry pox are yellow to dark brown in colour. The wet pox internal lesions are yellow-white in colour and have a cheesy appearance.
Mortality ranges from 1-2% with dry pox to over 40% when wet pox is more prevalent. There can also be a reduction in egg production.
Yellow to dark brown wart-like lumps are visible on the head, particularly on the comb and around the eyes or yellow-white lesions in the oral cavity are indicative of fowl pox. A laboratory histological examination can confirm this in a chicken and the virus can also be found in embryonated eggs.
Treatment and control
As there is no effective treatment for fowl pox, prevention is the best protection. A live vaccination is the most successful preventative method and, even if there is an outbreak, a flock should be immediately vaccinated to stop the further spread of infection.
Biosecurity is imperative
Along with vaccination, robust biosecurity measures are needed to slow and stop the spread of any disease incursion. Strict hygiene like cleaning and disinfection procedures to prevent disease are critical to minimising incursion.
Livetec are the industry leaders in biosecurity
Livetec creates bespoke plans that are designed to mitigate the risk of infection and protect the welfare of your flock or your farm business. They encompass best practices, unique evidence based thinking and the latest legislation.
Livetec also 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.
Contact Livetec today to find out more about our biosecurity services here.