WSU researchers find new form of poultry disease

PULLMAN — Researchers say a serious new form of a viral poultry disease has been found in Washington state.

Infectious bursal disease virus, known as IBDV for short, is not known to infect people or other animals. Washington State University’s animal disease lab says it has been confirmed in one flock of birds here — the first confirmed case in the United States outside of California.

This form of the disease was first documented in California in 2008, said Dr. Tim Baszler, director of the WSU lab. It typically kills 25 percent to 30 percent of a flock, and birds 3 to 6 weeks old are especially susceptible. It can also suppress their immune system, making them more susceptible to secondary diseases.

Baszler said there’s no public health concern, but it is troubling for those who raise chickens or turkeys.

“It doesn’t get into the food supply,” he said Saturday. “These aren’t egg-laying birds or birds that are ready to be slaughtered for food consumption.”

No information was immediately released about where the confirmed case originated, but Baszler noted that most of the state’s poultry farms are in western Washington.

Researchers say wild birds, such as healthy ducks, guinea hens, pheasants and quail, have been found to be naturally infected, but it doesn’t appear that they play any major role in the spread of disease to domestic poultry.

Affected birds can appear lethargic and unsteady and have diarrhea, symptoms that can be caused by other illnesses. For that reason, experts advise that definitive diagnosis be made through post-mortem examination and testing.

Baszler said birds can be protected through vaccination.

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