‘Fowl Pox’ or ‘Turkey Pox’

Every year mosquito seaso returns to Florida and with it the chance for the turkeys to catch Avian Pox, sometimes known a ‘Fowl Pox’ or ‘Turkey Pox’

Pox from mosquitos (she survived)

Official description of the bird pox

Wikipedia link on turkey pox

The fowl pox is a viral disease in birds, characterized by wart-like nodules on the featherless parts of the body-the feet, beak, wattle & head. Sometimes covering one or both eyes. The warts will last 3-5 weeks and the pox is normally not fatal.

There is no evidence that the avian pox virus can infect humans and therefore it is not a public health concern.

 But it is scary time of concern for the pet owner.

YouTube video of the fowl pox & vaccination

Photo of a rooster in South Africa with the Fowl pox.

The disease (virus) exhibits itself in one or two ways, cutaneous pox (dry form) or diphtheritic pox (wet form). The diphtheritic variant can spread inside the mouth and airways & is more dangerous to the birds than the dry form. (Luckily we have never experienced the wet form)

Clemson warning

I first learned about avian pox “avipoxvirus” when reading a newspaper article about a young red tailed hawk covered in facial warts. -And learned that wild birds are the source of domesticated fowl contamination.

The virus is spread to turkeys and chickens mostly by the bite of infected mosquitos. Although once present in the backyard flock, the pox can be spread by other birds eating the infected scabs (warts) when the scabs drop off the healing birds.

When possible, infected birds should be isolated & coop disinfected after the birds have healed.

EXCELLENT  Veterinary description: of pox

Reports on the virus state that any age of bird may be affected; however our experience has been that the small turkey poults (1-3 months old) are most susceptible to catching the ‘pox’. We have never had an adult bird catch this virus.

Extra Mosquito protection required for the little ones

Note: a relatively cheap avian pox vaccine is available, but we have not reached the point where we have decided to vaccinate-although every season of new baby turkeys we consider it & I have watched the instructional videos of the wing-web method and using a one needle applicator.

However so far, our fowl pox contamination has been infrequent.

NEVER vaccinate a bird already showing symptoms.

At the height of the Florida mosquito season (July through September) we take what precautions are available.

Our preventative measures:

  1. Attempt to limit the amount of babies during the height of mosquito season. –easy to talk about, however the hens are not always cooperative on this consideration.
  2. When practicable, we keep the young birds and mother locked in a screened inside pen at night. But as of writing this, all of the baby turkeys and mothers have moved into the oak and maples to perch for the night.
  3. At dusk, light mosquito smudge sticks or citronella punk sticks. This has proven effective if expensive.
  4. One year we placed “Thema-cell”s around the bird. (if  you are not familiar with a Therma-cell, -hunters use them to effectively ward off mosquitos) That was a VERY expensive  year & we have not repeated that experiment. The thermacells were very effective and we had no pox, however  the refills are cost prohibitive for the approximate 120 days of peak season.

Final note; Other than the vaccination, there is no treatment for fowl pox. Ordinary medical and sanitation practices will not prevent the spread from wild birds. One person told us, he picked the scabs daily and swabbed the bare spots in iodine.

-Sounded good & I guess it cannot hurt to try.

However: effective mosquito control management is vital if not using the vaccination.

Once the fowl pox has run its course the bird will be immune and will not get the fowl pox again

Note on wild birds: Avian pox has been diagnosed in most birds residing in temperate climates: Wild turkeys, doves, pigeons, raptors & kara-karas, songbirds, sparrows, robins, finches, crows, swans, & sandhill cranes. In domestic and barnyard birds: Turkeys, chickens, parrots and canaries.

Marine birds appear to have a stronger resistance to the pox.

Warning in New York

A picture of a the pox in the healing stage,-about one month after growing this on his/her eye.

In about 2 weeks the scab will fall off. Unknown if the vision will be impaired, but in past years there was a complete return of normal vision.

For more information on Avian Pox & other contagious diseases:

Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry

Michigan DNR

Other health problems?

The sudden appearance of wetness around the eye & coughing:

Chronic Respiratory Disease (CRD) in Poultry    Mycoplasma gallisepticum

Helpful website

Helpful website

The pox in the scab stage (ready to fall off)

What I read is that the scabs themselves can spread the pox when eaten by other birds. So I was watch for the scab was going to fall off.

Note: the bird had full eyesight return once the scab fell off.

For those who need to know about NPIP certification:  My NPIP page (Opine & Whine page)

Return Home from Avian Pox page

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