Fowl pox is a highly infectious poultry disease affecting the skin of chickens and turkeys. Chickens and other fowl are affected with pox but not the same type of virus. The disease is transmitted by direct contact with affected birds, infected quarters, shipping crates, and other inanimate objects.
Fowl pox may also be spread by mosquitoes. The rapidity of its spread and virulence in a flock varies considerably with different flocks. In acute cases, the disease may spread through the flock in two or three weeks, while in the chronic form it may take several months. Fowl pox is much more common and serious with chickens than turkeys.
Fowl pox is a poultry disease caused by a virus. This viral disease affects the skin of chickens and turkeys, especially areas that have no feathers.
Signs of Fowl Pox
- Small blister-like growths of a yellowish color appear on the comb, wattles or skin of the head. Later these sores become crusty and dry and are covered with dark brown scabs.
- There is inactivity, sneezing and coughing.
- The eyes are watery and, as the disease progresses, the eyelids may become stuck together or very much enlarged.
- The sinuses become infected, causing the face to swell.
- Diarrhea is frequently present.
- Nasal discharge.
- The bird has no inclination, or cannot see, to eat.
- Death is frequently caused by a stoppage of the windpipe due to the inflammation and mucus which collects there. The lesions that are formed in the throat can develop to the extent of blocking the throat and it could eventually lead to death as a result of suffocation.
The disease may appear in three forms. Cankers may be present on the inside linings of the mouth without any pox sores on the head, or the sores may come on the head without the cankers on the inside, or both may be present. It starts developing in any break found in the skin of the host.
How to Prevent fowl pox disease
As soon as an outbreak of the disease is noticed all affected birds should be isolated and the remaining birds vaccinated. Preventive vaccination is advisable in regions where the disease commonly occurs. This may be accomplished by vaccinating all the young birds each year with fowl pox vaccine following an outbreak which has made the old birds immune.
If there has been no previous outbreak in the flock both young and old stock must be vaccinated the first year. The best time to vaccinate young birds is when they are 6 to 10 weeks of age. Unless all the young birds are vaccinated at the same time strict segregation of the vaccinated birds should be maintained until all the birds have been handled. Only strong healthy birds should be vaccinated.
Heavy mortality may result where birds are weakened by disease or infestations of parasites. Old birds vaccinated with fowl pox vaccine should be out of production; otherwise, the mortality may be high.
The mechanical carriers of fowl pox are mosquitoes. So it is advisable to reduce the mosquitoes around your farm or environment. Ordinary sanitation and management practices will not avert this disease, so vaccination is often the solution. It is recommended to vaccinate chickens and turkeys such as breeders, egg layers, and those that are highly susceptible to fowl pox. Live fowl pox vaccine is administered in the wing web of birds within age 6 and 10 weeks. If aggressive pecking is controlled among birds, skin damage which fowl pox causes is reduced.
How to Administer Fowl Pox Vaccine
Fowl Pox vaccine produces immunity for life, but, used on laying birds, is quite likely to throw them out of production and cause some deaths. Pigeon-pox vaccine causes a mild reaction which does not affect egg production but produces only a temporary immunity (about six months).
Fowl pox vaccine consists of powdered fowl pox scabs mixed with distilled water. The scabs are secured from cockerels that have been inoculated on the comb with fowl pox virus. The scabs which are formed over the inoculated area are removed, dried and ground. The scab material is added to the liquid just before vaccinating, for once mixed it loses its potency rapidly if not kept in a cool place. Direct exposure to the sun is particularly harmful. The dry powdered scabs will keep for months without deterioration if kept in a cool place.
Fowl pox vaccine is applied using two sewing machine needles are fastened ¼ of an inch apart in a small handle about 3 inches long. The vaccination is made by dipping the needles in the vaccine and then puncturing the wing web. This breaks the skin and introduces the vaccine. Care should be taken to find a place free of feathers. Also, the large blood vessel should be avoided.
How to treat fowl pox disease
Since this is a viral disease, there is no exact drug. However, you should remove the necrotic membrane from affected chickens’ mouth and larynx. Remove the brown scabs on the head and apply iodine solution on the area. You can stimulate appetite with wet feed (mash) and add antibiotics and multivitamins to their drinking water. As long as a diseased bird is eating and drinking, it will recover from the disease in about 2 to 3 weeks or more with low mortality rate. When a bird recovers successfully from fowl pox, it is immune to the disease permanently.