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fowlpox

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fowlpox

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 12 September 2022
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Animal Disease
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • fowlpox
  • Overview
  • Avipoxviruses (APV) infect at least 374 avian species from 23 orders (Williams et al., 2021), including domestic, wild and pet birds. All the avian pox...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Cutaneous form of pox virus infection. Variously sized papules or nodules are observed in the comb of this animal.
TitleCutaneous pox virus symptoms.
CaptionCutaneous form of pox virus infection. Variously sized papules or nodules are observed in the comb of this animal.
CopyrightNatàlia Majó Masferror
Cutaneous form of pox virus infection. Variously sized papules or nodules are observed in the comb of this animal.
Cutaneous pox virus symptoms.Cutaneous form of pox virus infection. Variously sized papules or nodules are observed in the comb of this animal. Natàlia Majó Masferror
Nodule in a feathered area of a pigeon caused by pox virus infection.
TitleSymptoms
CaptionNodule in a feathered area of a pigeon caused by pox virus infection.
CopyrightNatàlia Majó Masferror
Nodule in a feathered area of a pigeon caused by pox virus infection.
SymptomsNodule in a feathered area of a pigeon caused by pox virus infection.Natàlia Majó Masferror
Diphteric form of pox virus infection. Yellowish pseudomembranes are observed in the lumen of the trachea.
TitleDiptheric form symptoms
CaptionDiphteric form of pox virus infection. Yellowish pseudomembranes are observed in the lumen of the trachea.
CopyrightLaboratorios Hipra, S.A.
Diphteric form of pox virus infection. Yellowish pseudomembranes are observed in the lumen of the trachea.
Diptheric form symptomsDiphteric form of pox virus infection. Yellowish pseudomembranes are observed in the lumen of the trachea.Laboratorios Hipra, S.A.
Pox virus infected CAM. Note diffuse thickening of the membrane.
TitlePox virus infected CAM
CaptionPox virus infected CAM. Note diffuse thickening of the membrane.
CopyrightLaboratorios Hipra, S.A.
Pox virus infected CAM. Note diffuse thickening of the membrane.
Pox virus infected CAMPox virus infected CAM. Note diffuse thickening of the membrane.Laboratorios Hipra, S.A.
Histologic section of poxvirus-infected CAM. Epithelial hyperplasia and large, eosinophilic intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies (Bollinger bodies) within epithelial cells are observed.
TitleHistology
CaptionHistologic section of poxvirus-infected CAM. Epithelial hyperplasia and large, eosinophilic intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies (Bollinger bodies) within epithelial cells are observed.
CopyrightNatàlia Majó Masferror
Histologic section of poxvirus-infected CAM. Epithelial hyperplasia and large, eosinophilic intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies (Bollinger bodies) within epithelial cells are observed.
HistologyHistologic section of poxvirus-infected CAM. Epithelial hyperplasia and large, eosinophilic intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies (Bollinger bodies) within epithelial cells are observed.Natàlia Majó Masferror
Histologic section of poxvirus-infected skin. Epithelial hyperplasia and large, eosinophilic intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies (Bollinger bodies) within epithelial cells are observed.
TitleHistology
CaptionHistologic section of poxvirus-infected skin. Epithelial hyperplasia and large, eosinophilic intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies (Bollinger bodies) within epithelial cells are observed.
CopyrightNatàlia Majó Masferror
Histologic section of poxvirus-infected skin. Epithelial hyperplasia and large, eosinophilic intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies (Bollinger bodies) within epithelial cells are observed.
HistologyHistologic section of poxvirus-infected skin. Epithelial hyperplasia and large, eosinophilic intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies (Bollinger bodies) within epithelial cells are observed.Natàlia Majó Masferror
Thin section electron microscopy showing a mature pox virus particle, with a centrally located biconcave core, two lateral bodies and the outer coat.
TitleMature pox virus particle
CaptionThin section electron microscopy showing a mature pox virus particle, with a centrally located biconcave core, two lateral bodies and the outer coat.
CopyrightNatàlia Majó Masferror
Thin section electron microscopy showing a mature pox virus particle, with a centrally located biconcave core, two lateral bodies and the outer coat.
Mature pox virus particleThin section electron microscopy showing a mature pox virus particle, with a centrally located biconcave core, two lateral bodies and the outer coat. Natàlia Majó Masferror

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • fowlpox

International Common Names

  • English: avian diphtheria; canker; fowl pox; fowlpox, fowl pox; pox
  • Spanish: viruela aviar

Local Common Names

  • Italy: epitelioma dei polli

Overview

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Avipoxviruses (APV) infect at least 374 avian species from 23 orders (Williams et al., 2021), including domestic, wild and pet birds. All the avian poxviruses belong to the genus Avipoxvirus, within the subfamily Chordopoxvirinae of the family Poxviridae. Fowlpox virus is the type species of the genus Avipoxvirus. This genus also comprises the following species: turkeypox, canarypox, pigeonpox, quailpox, sparrowpox, starlingpox, juncopox and psittacinepox viruses. Other probable members of this genus are peacockpox, penguinpox, mynahpox and albatrosspox viruses. The term fowlpox initially included all pox virus infections of birds, but now it is often used to refer to the disease in commercial poultry, such as chickens and turkeys.

Fowlpox is a common and economically important disease of domestic birds and is distributed worldwide. It is slow spreading and characterized by the formation of proliferative lesions, scabs on the skin and diphtheric lesions in the upper regions of the respiratory and digestive tracts.

The first description of the occurrence of pox virus infection in birds appeared in Europe around 1850. Bollinger, in 1873, published his microscopic findings on pox virus-infected cells from chickens. Large, cytoplasmic, eosinophilic inclusions were observed, which are now known as Bollinger’s inclusion bodies. The first attempts to grow this virus in chicken embryos were made by Centanni in Italy in 1902 (Bolte et al., 1999).

Host Animals

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Animal nameContextLife stageSystem
AccipitridaeExperimental settings; Wild host
AlcidaeWild host
AnatidaeExperimental settings; Wild host
ApodiformesWild host
CharadriiformesWild host
CiconiiformesWild host
Columba livia (pigeons)Domesticated host
ColumbiformesDomesticated host; Experimental settings; Wild host
FalconiformesDomesticated host; Wild host
GalliformesDomesticated host; Experimental settings; Wild hostPoultry|All Stages
Gallus gallus domesticus (chickens)Domesticated host; Experimental settingsPoultry|All Stages
GruiformesWild host
LaridaeWild host
Meleagris gallopavo (turkey)Domesticated hostPoultry|All Stages
OtididaeWild host
PasseriformesDomesticated host; Experimental settings; Wild host
PelecaniformesWild host
PhasianidaeDomesticated host; Experimental settings; Wild host
PiciformesWild host
PodicipediformesWild host
ProcellariiformesWild host
PsittaciformesDomesticated host; Experimental settings; Wild host
RallidaeWild host
SphenisciformesWild host
StrigiformesExperimental settings; Wild host
StruthioniformesDomesticated host
UpupidaeWild host

Hosts/Species Affected

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More than 370 species of birds have been reported to acquire a natural pox virus infection and to develop various forms of fowlpox (Williams et al., 2021).

The incidence of fowlpox is variable in different geographical regions because of:

  • differences in climate (the incidence is more important in countries located in tropical areas), management and hygienic conditions
  • presence of vectors
  • practice of prophylactic immunization. In many developed countries, regular immunization of poultry flocks has virtually eliminated avian pox in commercial poultry.

Systems Affected

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digestive diseases of poultry
multisystemic diseases of poultry
reproductive diseases of poultry
respiratory diseases of poultry
skin and ocular diseases of poultry

Distribution

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Avian pox viruses are distributed worldwide in domestic poultry and wild birds, including Antarctica (Shearn-Bochsler et al., 2008).

In recent years, reports of pox virus infection in wild birds have increased (Bolte et al., 1999; Kreuder et al., 1999; Tripathy et al., 2000). In 1999, APV was detected in 278 species (Bolte et al., 1999), whereas in 2021 APV was detected in at least 374 avian species from 23 orders (Williams et al., 2021). APV has been detected in all major avian orders, except for Coraciiformes (kingfishers), probably because this group consists of relatively few species, which are infrequently in contact with humans. This increase in infection rate in wild birds may be important because wild birds may serve as virus carriers and may transmit and/or maintain the infection in a commercial poultry flock.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Africa

AngolaPresent
BeninPresent
BotswanaPresent
BurundiPresent
Cabo VerdePresent
CameroonPresent
Côte d'IvoirePresent
DjiboutiPresent
EgyptPresent1996
EritreaPresent
GhanaPresent
KenyaPresent
LibyaPresent
MadagascarPresent
MalawiPresent
MauritiusAbsent, No presence record(s)
MoroccoPresent
MozambiquePresent
NamibiaPresent
NigeriaPresent
São Tomé and PríncipePresent
SeychellesAbsent, No presence record(s)
South AfricaPresent
SudanPresent
TanzaniaPresent
TogoPresent
TunisiaPresent2003
UgandaPresent
ZambiaPresent

Asia

AfghanistanPresent
BahrainPresent
ChinaPresent
-ShaanxiPresent
-ShanxiPresent
Hong KongPresent
IndiaPresent
-Andhra PradeshPresent
IndonesiaPresent
IraqPresent
IsraelPresent
JapanPresent2003
JordanPresent
KazakhstanAbsent, No presence record(s)
MalaysiaPresent
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresent
-SarawakPresent
MongoliaAbsent, No presence record(s)
MyanmarPresent
NepalPresent
PhilippinesPresent
Saudi ArabiaPresent
South KoreaPresent
Sri LankaPresent
SyriaAbsent, No presence record(s)
TaiwanPresent
TajikistanAbsent, No presence record(s)
ThailandPresent
United Arab EmiratesPresent
VietnamPresent

Europe

AndorraAbsent, No presence record(s)
AustriaAbsent, No presence record(s)
BelarusPresent
BelgiumAbsent, No presence record(s)
Bosnia and HerzegovinaAbsent, No presence record(s)
CyprusPresent
CzechiaPresent
DenmarkPresent
EstoniaAbsent, No presence record(s)
FinlandAbsent, No presence record(s)
FrancePresent
GermanyPresent
IcelandAbsent, No presence record(s)
IrelandPresent
Isle of ManAbsent, No presence record(s)
ItalyPresent
JerseyAbsent, No presence record(s)
LatviaAbsent, No presence record(s)
LiechtensteinAbsent, No presence record(s)
LithuaniaAbsent, No presence record(s)
MaltaPresent
NetherlandsPresent
North MacedoniaPresent
NorwayAbsent, No presence record(s)
PolandAbsent, No presence record(s)
RomaniaPresent
Serbia and MontenegroAbsent, No presence record(s)
SloveniaAbsent, No presence record(s)
SpainPresent
SwedenAbsent, No presence record(s)
United KingdomPresent

North America

BarbadosPresent
BermudaAbsent, No presence record(s)
CanadaPresent
-QuebecPresent
CubaPresent
CuraçaoAbsent, No presence record(s)
DominicaPresent
Dominican RepublicPresent
GuatemalaPresent
HaitiAbsent, No presence record(s)
HondurasPresent
JamaicaPresent
MartiniquePresent
MexicoPresent
NicaraguaPresent
Saint Kitts and NevisAbsent, No presence record(s)
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresent
Trinidad and TobagoPresent
United StatesPresent
-ArizonaPresent
-CaliforniaPresent
-FloridaPresent
-GeorgiaPresent
-HawaiiPresent
-IdahoPresent
-IllinoisPresent
-IndianaPresentOriginal citation: Boosinger TR et al. (1982)
-KentuckyPresent
-MarylandPresent
-New JerseyPresent
-New YorkPresent
-OklahomaPresent
-OregonPresent
-PennsylvaniaPresent
-TennesseePresent
-TexasPresent
-VirginiaPresent
-WashingtonPresent

Oceania

AustraliaPresent
French PolynesiaPresent
New CaledoniaPresent
New ZealandPresent
VanuatuAbsent, No presence record(s)

South America

ArgentinaPresent
BrazilPresent2003
ChilePresent
ColombiaPresent
EcuadorPresent
Falkland IslandsAbsent, No presence record(s)
French GuianaAbsent, No presence record(s)
GuyanaAbsent, No presence record(s)
ParaguayPresent
PeruPresent
UruguayPresent

Pathology

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In the cutaneous form of the disease, small papules or nodules are observed in non-feathered areas of the skin. This means the comb, wattles, corners of the mouth, angle of the beak, commissure of the mouth, ventral surface of the wings, the legs and the vent. Lesions may coalesce into large greyish, wart-like plaques. Removal of the lesions, if not completely dry, leaves a haemorrhagic, moist surface. Scabs or crusts finally drop off, leaving a scar. In turkeys and pigeons, cutaneous lesions may spread to the feathered areas of the body (see pictures) (Tripathy, 1993).

In the diphtheric form of the disease, white, opaque nodules may develop in the mucous membranes of the mouth, infraorbital sinuses, larynx, pharynx, trachea and oesophagus. Their coalescence results in yellowish, necrotic, cheesy pseudomembranes that leave a bleeding surface on removal. Often a solitary proliferative growth may be observed (Tripathy, 1993). In an unusual outbreak of pox virus infection in turkeys, proliferative lesions occurred in the oviduct, cloaca and skin surrounding the vent (Metz et al., 1985).

Microscopically, infection by any pox virus initially results in cell enlargement and proliferation. Epithelial cells show marked hyperplasia and ballooning degeneration with large eosinophilic intracytoplasmic A-type inclusion bodies, named Bollinger bodies (see pictures). The diphtheric lesions are characterized by oedema and hydropic degeneration of the epithelium of the larynx and trachea, and by the presence of intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies in the epithelial cells of these organs.

Diagnosis

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Fowlpox infections usually produce characteristic gross and microscopic lesions. Microscopic examination of affected tissues stained with H&E reveals eosinophilic cytoplasmic inclusion bodies in fowlpox virus-infected cells (Bollinger’s inclusion bodies), and this is the most common technique for the diagnosis of fowlpox.

Clinical diagnosis

Cutaneous and diphtheric lesions typical of avian pox infection may also be confirmed by virus isolation. The cutaneous form must be differentiated from pantothenic acid or biotin deficiency in young chicks or from T-2 toxicosis. Diphtheric lesions associated with respiratory distress must be differentiated from infectious laryngotracheitis and vitamin A deficiency. In doves and pigeons, the diphtheric form may be mistaken for lesions caused by Trichomonas gallinae (Tripathy and Reed, 1997).

Microscopic diagnosis

Observation of the inclusion bodies (Bollinger bodies) in the cell cytoplasm in a smear, stained with Wright’s stain or by the Gimenez method prepared from lesions is characteristic of pox virus infection. The method uses fuchsin and malachite green, and can be used for both cutaneous and diphtheric lesions. The elementary bodies of fowlpox virus stain red and are either within intact structures of various sizes representing inclusion bodies, or scattered (approximately 0.2-0.3 µm).

Presence of characteristic lesions may also be observed in a tissue section prepared from a lesion processed by conventional histological methods. Electron microscopy may also be useful to demonstrate virus particles in lesions by negative staining or in ultra-thin sections. However, these methods do not provide a species diagnosis of the avipoxvirus involved in the lesion.

Viral isolation and identification

Avian pox viruses can be isolated by inoculating material from suspect lesions into susceptible birds, developing embryos or cell cultures from avian origin. Isolation is attempted from nodular or diphtheric lesions, which are removed with sterile scissors and forceps by cutting deep into the epithelial tissue. A suspension of this material is prepared in Hanks balanced salt solution or nutrient broth containing antibiotics and used for inoculation. The developing chicken embryo, 9 to 12 days, is the preferred host for viral isolation. Approximately 0.1 ml of the tissue material is inoculated onto the chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) and the embryo is incubated at 37°C. The embryo is examined to detect the presence of pock lesions in the CAM at 5 to 7 days post infection. White opaque pocks or a generalized thickening of the CAM is observed if the suspect material contains the pox virus. Histopathological examination of the CAM should be done to confirm the presence of intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies characteristic of pox virus infection. It has to be noted that some pox virus strains from wild birds do not grow in CAM and inoculation of susceptible birds is necessary to confirm the pathogenicity of the viral agent.

If susceptible birds are used for viral isolation, a homogenate of the lesion is applied by cutaneous scarification to the comb or any other unfeathered area of the skin. Susceptibility of the bird species is demonstrated by development of lesions at the site of inoculation.

Cell cultures are not usually employed for initial isolation of avian pox viruses. Chicken embryo fibroblasts, chicken embryo dermis and kidney cells and duck embryo fibroblasts may be used to propagate the virus. Viral infection in chicken fibroblasts causes cell rounding followed by cell degeneration and necrosis, by 4 to 6 days post infection. Adaptation of the virus to the host system is sometimes necessary, since not all strains produce cytopathic effects on initial inoculation (Tripathy, 1993; Tripathy and Reed, 1997).

Serological diagnosis

Serological methods have been mainly used to characterize antigenically the relationship among avian pox viruses but are not generally practical as routine diagnostic tests.

Virus neutralization

After virus/serum interaction, the residual activity may be assayed in embryonating chicken eggs or cell cultures. Only some selected strains of the virus have plaque-forming ability in chicken embryo cells. Neutralizing antibodies develop within 1-2 weeks of infection.

Agar gel immunodiffusion

Precipitating antibodies can be detected by reacting sera against partially purified viral antigens, which are prepared by sonification and homogenization of infected lesion material or infected CAMs. The partial purification of the antigen is done by sonification and homogenization with 50% volume of a fluorocarbon such as Genetron 113 (Allied Chemicals). The suspension is centrifuged and the supernatant aqueous layer is rehomogenized with fluorocarbon. The supernatant from this is collected and used as the antigen. Gel-diffusion medium is made with 1% agar, 8% sodium chloride and 0.01% thiomersol. Precipitation lines develop 24-48 h after incubation of the antigen with the antibody to homologous or closely related strains. The test is less sensitive than the ELISA or the passive haemagglutination test.

Passive haemagglutination

Tanned sheep or horse red cells are sensitized with a partially purified fowlpox viral antigen. The antigen is prepared from infected CAMs by treatment with fluorocarbon as above. PHA is more sensitive than AGID. The test will give cross-reactions among avian pox viruses.

Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay

ELISAs have been developed to detect humoral antibodies to fowlpox virus. They are capable of detecting antibodies at 7 days post infection.

Molecular diagnosis

Restriction endonuclease analysis has been used to compare the genomes of different avian pox viruses and is useful for comparison of field isolates and vaccine strains of fowlpox virus. In addition, cloned genomic fragments of fowlpox virus can be used effectively as nucleic acid probes for diagnosis of fowlpox virus infection (Tripathy and Reed, 1997). A polymerase chain reaction technique that amplifies a region within the gene coding the 4b-core-protein of fowlpox virus has been developed recently (Lee and Lee, 1997).

The improving performance of next-generation sequencing (NGS) has offered new opportunities for diagnosis and genomic surveillance of poxviruses. Croville and others have recently used the thirdgeneration Oxford Nanopore Minion technology for real-time whole-genome sequencing of fowlpox virus in hens. Whole APV genome was readily generated directly from cutaneous or tracheal lesions, without any isolation or PCR-based enrichment (Croville et al., 2018).

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Digestive Signs / Anorexia, loss or decreased appetite, not nursing, off feed Poultry|All Stages Sign
Digestive Signs / Difficulty in prehending or chewing food Poultry|All Stages Sign
Digestive Signs / Dysphagia, difficulty swallowing Poultry|All Stages Sign
Digestive Signs / Esophageal obstruction Poultry|All Stages Sign
Digestive Signs / Hepatosplenomegaly, splenomegaly, hepatomegaly Poultry|All Stages Sign
Digestive Signs / Oral mucosal ulcers, vesicles, plaques, pustules, erosions, tears Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
Digestive Signs / Pharyngeal ulcers, vesicles, erosion, papules, sores pharynx Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
General Signs / Dehydration Poultry|All Stages Sign
General Signs / Discomfort, restlessness in birds Poultry|All Stages Sign
General Signs / Exercise intolerance, tires easily Poultry|All Stages Sign
General Signs / Hindfoot swelling, mass rear foot, feet Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
General Signs / Hindlimb swelling, mass in hind leg joint and / or non-joint area Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
General Signs / Increased mortality in flocks of birds Poultry|All Stages Sign
General Signs / Lack of growth or weight gain, retarded, stunted growth Poultry|All Stages Sign
General Signs / Laryngeal, tracheal, pharyngeal swelling, mass larynx, trachea, pharynx Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
General Signs / Oral cavity, tongue swelling, mass in mouth Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
General Signs / Orbital, periorbital, periocular, conjunctival swelling, eyeball mass Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
General Signs / Reluctant to move, refusal to move Sign
General Signs / Swelling mass oviducts Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
General Signs / Swelling of the comb, wattles in birds Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
General Signs / Swelling of the limbs, legs, foot, feet, in birds Sign
General Signs / Swelling skin or subcutaneous, mass, lump, nodule Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
General Signs / Swelling, mass, prolapse, cloaca Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
General Signs / Swelling, mass, wing Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
General Signs / Underweight, poor condition, thin, emaciated, unthriftiness, ill thrift Poultry|All Stages Sign
General Signs / Weight loss Poultry|All Stages Sign
Nervous Signs / Dullness, depression, lethargy, depressed, lethargic, listless Poultry|All Stages Sign
Reproductive Signs / Decreased, dropping, egg production Poultry|Mature female Sign
Respiratory Signs / Abnormal breathing sounds of the upper airway, airflow obstruction, stertor, snoring Poultry|All Stages Sign
Respiratory Signs / Abnormal lung or pleural sounds, rales, crackles, wheezes, friction rubs Poultry|All Stages Sign
Respiratory Signs / Coughing, coughs Poultry|All Stages Sign
Respiratory Signs / Dyspnea, difficult, open mouth breathing, grunt, gasping Poultry|All Stages Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Hyperkeratosis, thick skin Poultry|All Stages Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin crusts, scabs Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin papules Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin plaque Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin pustules Poultry|All Stages Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin scales, flakes, peeling Poultry|All Stages Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin ulcer, erosion, excoriation Poultry|All Stages Diagnosis
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin vesicles, bullae, blisters Poultry|All Stages Sign

Disease Course

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Infection with avipox viruses usually results in one of two forms:

  • Cutaneous or dry form: characterized by the development of discrete nodular proliferative skin lesions in the non-feathered areas of the body.
  • Diphtheric, pharyngeal or wet form: consisting of fibrinonecrotizing lesions in the mucous membranes of the mouth, oesophagus and upper respiratory tract.

Sporadically, other forms associated with pox virus infection have been reported: a mixed form, characterized by both, cutaneous and diphtheric lesions, a tumorous form and a per-acute form, associated with sudden death (Bolte et al., 1999).

Both cutaneous and diphtheric forms have a relatively acute course. In the cutaneous form, experimental intradermal inoculation resulted in primary lesions (papules) by day 5 and 6 post infection. In the diphtheric form, respiratory signs were observed 7 days after intralaryngeal inoculation and mortality began at 10 days post infection, reaching 45% of the animals (Tripathy, 1993). Incubation period of the naturally occurring disease varies from 4 to 10 days in chickens, turkeys and pigeons and is about 4 days in canaries. The course of the natural disease may be approximately 3 to 4 weeks (Tripathy and Reed, 1997).

Clinical signs in naturally infected birds vary depending on the virulence of the virus, susceptibility of the host, distribution and type of lesions in an infected bird and other complicating factors (Tripathy and Reed, 1997). Lesions on one or both eyelids, in the cutaneous form, may lead to partial or complete closure of the eyes and the birds may be unable to reach the water and feed. In the diphtheric form, with effects on the oral mucosa, difficulty in feeding and drinking may occur and the birds become anorexic, lose weight, and eventually die. Lesions in the respiratory passages may cause gasping, rales and laboured breathing, leading to respiratory distress and death due to suffocation. Transient drop in egg production in layers has also been associated with pox virus infection (Tripathy, 1993).

The disease spreads slowly, and morbidity and mortality are related to the susceptibility of the flock, virulence of the virus strain, environmental and physical stresses, concentration of the birds and the presence of other infections in the flock. Mortality is negligible in the mild cutaneous form of the disease if infection does not involve the eyes or mucous membranes. The mortality rates of the diphtheric and mixed forms of the disease are higher than in the cutaneous form, however the mortality also depends on the action of the predisposing factors already mentioned. In highly susceptible flocks, a virulent virus strain may result in morbidity and mortality rates as high as 50%. High mortality has been observed in pigeons, quails and canaries. Of all pox virus infections, canarypox is the most lethal and frequently leads to the death of all infected canaries (Tripathy and Reed, 1997).

Infection occurs when cutaneous injuries on the feet, comb, other parts of the body or on the mucous membranes of the mouth or upper respiratory tract are exposed to virus-contaminated material. A breach in the skin or mucous membranes is required for the entry of the virus. Infection may be transmitted from bird to bird by direct contact, especially under crowded conditions where minor abrasions can occur as a result of fighting and pecking. Since the virus may survive in dried scabs for prolonged time, aerosols generated by feathers and dried scabs provide the conditions for both cutaneous and respiratory infections. Insects mechanically carrying the virus may deposit it in the eye. The virus may reach the laryngeal area via the lachrymal duct. Cells of the mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and mouth appear to be highly susceptible to the virus as initiation of the infection may occur in the absence of apparent trauma or injury. Local multiplication results in the development of lesions at the site of virus entry. Some authors have reported that, after intradermal or intratracheal inoculation, viraemia occurs and the virus may be localized in different organs (lung, liver, spleen, kidney and brain) at variable periods between 6 and 12 days post infection. Other authors have only detected viraemia if the birds are infected intravenously, but not when the inoculation route is intradermal (Tripathy, 1993).

There are indications that avian pox viruses may persist as latent infections in some flocks and that some species of wild birds may serve as latent pox virus carriers (Tripathy, 1993).

Epidemiology

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Most avian species are susceptible to avipoxviruses. Of the approximately 9000 bird species, more than 370 species have been reported to acquire a natural pox virus infection and to develop various forms of pox (Williams et al., 2021). In both wild and domestic birds, the infection can occur in susceptible birds of any age, sex and breed.

Infected birds are the main reservoir for APV. The most common route of APV transmission is via the inhalation of aerosols or dust or through contact with contaminated farm objects (Riper and Forrester, 2007). Biting insects, such as midges (Ceratopogonidae) and mosquitoes (Culicidae) (Riper et al., 2002; Lee et al., 2017), fleas (Parapsyllus longicornis) (Kane et al., 2012) and blowflies (Phaenicia sp. [Lucilia (Diptera)]) (Docherty et al., 1991) can also transmit APV. Insects serve as mechanical vectors and infections occur through transmission of the virus to the injured or lacerated skin of the host. Mechanical transmission of fowlpox virus from infected toms to turkey hens, through artificial insemination has also been reported (Metz et al., 1985). Eleven species of Diptera, specifically of the genus Culex and Aedes, have been found to be vectors of avian pox viruses (Akey et al., 1981). Mosquitoes have been shown to be capable of infecting a number of different birds after a single feeding on a bird infected with avian pox virus. The mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, has also been implicated in the spread of fowlpox virus (Shirinov et al., 1972). Infected mealworms Alphitobius diaperinus are also capable of retaining the fowlpox virus for a maximum of 6 days and elimination of this virus from the mealworm occurs through the excrement and this can be a source of contamination of the poultry environment (Casas et al., 1976). Stick fast fleas have also been associated with fowlpox in chickens (Gustafson et al., 1997).

The most important epizootiological factors of APV distribution include housing density, ventilation, weather conditions and vector abundance (Akey et al., 1981; Riper et al., 2002; Riper and Forrester, 2007).

Lesions become more frequent with the seasonal increase in temperature and precipitation. In most cases, a peak in APV lesions is reported in summer and/or autumn, when vectors are more abundant (Lachish et al., 2012; Loc’h et al., 2016).

Fowlpox lesions are significantly more frequent in young birds than in adult birds (Crawford, 1986; Gortázar et al., 2002; Ruiz-Martínez et al., 2016), which is likely since young birds lack acquired specific immunity to APV infection. Sex of birds, however, does not appear to play a significant role in infection with APV.

Impact: Economic

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No published data is available about treatment costs and economic losses due to pox virus infection, but it is known that, in domestic poultry, fowlpox and turkeypox infections cause economically important diseases. In domestic poultry flocks, avian pox can be a significant economic problem since, apart from mortality, it may cause a transient drop in egg production in layers and retarded growth in young birds (Tripathy, 1993).

Zoonoses and Food Safety

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The infectivity of avian poxviruses is limited to avian species and are not of public health significance. The human disease called chicken pox is not related to poultry or avipoxviruses.

Disease Treatment

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There are no specific treatments for avipox virus infections.

Prevention and Control

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Vaccination via intradermal or subcutaneous, and increasingly in ovo routes can be implemented in areas where the disease is endemic or where the disease has been diagnosed previously. Routine vaccination is less common in temperate climates where outbreaks of fowlpox are rare. However, fowlpox is more prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical climates, where control of biting insects is difficult. In these areas, fowlpox remains a significant problem for all types of poultry farming, including small-scale and backyard flocks, as well as for intensive farming.

There are two types of live attenuated virus vaccines that are commercially available, these are fowlpox and pigeonpox vaccines. These vaccines can be of chicken embryo origin, prepared from infected CAM, or of tissue culture origin, usually prepared from chicken embryo fibroblast cultures. These vaccines should contain a minimum concentration of 105 EID50/ml. The chicken embryo origin vaccines are capable of producing serious disease in a flock if used improperly. Fowlpox and pigeonpox vaccines may be applied by the wing-web method to four-week-old chickens and to pullets about 1-2 months before egg production starts. These vaccines may also be used to revaccinate chickens held for a second year of egg production. Turkeys are vaccinated by the thigh-stick method, usually when 2 to 3 months old. Pigeons are vaccinated by wing-web stick or feather-follicle methods. Vaccines of tissue culture origin can be administered as early as 1 day of age. These vaccines are considered to be genetically stable and protect immunocompetent birds for approximately 1 year (Tripathy, 1993).

Live attenuated vaccines from canarypox, quailpox and turkeypox viruses have also been developed and are commercially available in some countries.

Vaccination may produce a mild form of the disease. All birds within a house should be vaccinated on the same day. An important point is that if pox appears in a flock, as it spreads slowly, non-affected birds should be vaccinated. The positive vaccination response is indicated by the development of ‘takes’, which appear 5 to 10 days after vaccination and consists of swelling of the skin or a scab formation at the site of inoculation. Immunity develops 10 days after vaccination. Passively acquired immunity should be taken into account when vaccinating progeny from flocks, which either had experienced recent natural infection or had been vaccinated a short time ago (Tripathy, 1993).

Vaccination is usually carried out during spring or summer in areas where the disease occurs during autumn and winter. In tropical climates, vaccination may be done at any time, because the disease may occur throughout the year (Tripathy, 1993).

The pox virus has been used as a viral vector to create recombinant vaccines capable of expressing genes of several poultry and mammalian pathogens (Cardona et al., 1999; Elahi et al., 1999; Liu et al., 1999).

References

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Vogelsang, E.G., 1938. Avian pox in the rhea (Rhea americana). (Viruela aviaria en el Nandú (Rhea americana)). Semana Médica, 45:556-557.

Wang, J.X., Zhang, G.X., Liu, C.F., Tian, X.D., Liu, X.H., Ma, Y.Z., 1996. Current status and control policy of avian diseases in Shaanxi. Chinese Journal of Veterinary Science and Technology, 26(5):13-16.

Wheeldon, E.B., Sedgwick, C.J., Schulz, T.A., 1985. Epornitic of avian pox in a raptor rehabilitation center. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 187(11):1202-1204.

Williams, R.A.J., Truchado, D.A., Benitez, L., 2021. A review on the prevalence of poxvirus disease in free-living and captive wild birds. Microbiology Research, 12(2):403-418. DOI : 10.3390/microbiolres12020028

Wingate, D.B., Barker, J.K., King, N.W., 1980. Poxvirus infection of the white-tailed tropicbird (Phaeton lepturus) in Bermuda. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 16:619-622.

Winteroll, G., Mousa, S., Akrae, M., 1979. Avipoxvirus isolated from Psittacidae and falcon. Detailed characterization. (Pockenisolate aus Psittaciden und Falken -Nahere Charakterisierung). In: Krankheiten der Vogel. Tagung der Fachgruppe Geflugelkrankheiten (der DVG), 7-8. Marz 1979 in Munchen. 117-125.

Worth, C.B., 1956. A pox virus of the slate-colored junco. Auk, 73:230-234.

Xu, Y.M., Liu, L.R., Yu, Y.L., Zhu, K.X., 1993. Naturally occurring poxvirus infection in Chinese geese. Veterinary Annual, 33:126-130.

Zhang, D.L., Jia, J.Y., Chen, F.W., Wei, W.R., Zhang, C.H., Wu, L.H., 1996. Serological investigation of 16 infectious diseases in rare birds in the Lanzhou area. Chinese Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 22(6):22.

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Worth C B, 1956. A pox virus of the slate-colored junco. Auk. 230-234.

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