West Nile Virus and chickens
Since about 1999, West Nile Virus (WNV) has become a public health concern in the United States. Previously known to exist in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, WNV first occurred on the East Coast and has spread west to other states.
However, most healthy animals seem to be able to overcome the infection with no apparent illness.
The virus is spread by mosquitos. Mosquitos become infected with WNV after biting and feeding on infected wild birds. The infection is spread when the mosquitos bite people, animals or other birds.
The virus results in encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain.
Although chickens may become infected by the virus, they show few or no signs of the infection. The virus can be isolated for eight days from infected chickens. However, the level of virus in chicken blood is low and is probably not high enough to infect other mosquitos.
Chickens develop antibodies to the virus within five to seven days. Thus, chickens are unlikely to amplify the WNV infection in mosquitos. There is no evidence of animal-to-animal or animal-to-person transmission of WNV.
People can only become infected through the bite of an infected mosquito, and only a small number of mosquitos carry the virus.
Chicken and turkeys infected with WNV may show no signs of infection. Because WNV causes inflammation of the brain, expect clinical signs of the virus to be nervous system problems. Abnormal head posture, a wobbly gait, inability to stand, staggering and tremors are common symptoms. Many of these symptoms have been observed
in birds, but not in chickens.
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Article made possible through the contribution of Kansas State University.