I think we have Marek's....

Discussion in 'Emergencies, Illness, Meds & Cures' started by hockeychick, Jul 27, 2012.

  1. hockeychick

    hockeychick Junior Member

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    Hello, we started with our first chickens 2 and a half years ago. 46 day old chicks were delivered to us on March 2, 2010 - 10 from My Pet Chicken, 36 from McMurray, and ALL were vaccinated for Marek's. The first 'sign' was when a Speckled Sussex, Whirly Bird, had what appeared to be Wry neck, or crook neck. And the poor thing would always fall over backwards when she drank water. She was probably 4 weeks old at the time, but she got better. Then at 6 weeks, Laila our Silver Laced Wyandotte, became extremely lethargic and we nearly lost her. We treated the birds for coccidiosis, and she pulled through. We gave several birds away when they were a year old, but everyone was healthy. We had also adopted a Cochin rooster that was a little younger than the girls. He was a lovely boy and he appeared healthy, but dropped dead rather suddenly at 1 year old, that was June 30, 2011. 2 weeks later a Jersey Giant died from a mysterious cause. A few months later, Whirly Bird's eye started to look a little funny. Like she had a cataract in it, and the pupil started to look elongated and narrow, but she seemed healthy, so I assumed it was an injury. So now lets fast forward to summer 2012...Laila my sweet SLW was found dead in the run last month. She was out and running around the day before, acting like her usual bossy and noisy self. Whirly bird's other eye is clouding over now, although not as bad as the first eye...yet. I noticed 2 nights ago that her 'sister' Frosty, another Speckled Sussex, has a cloudy eye as well. Frosty had been a beautiful bird, but her feathers are a mess now, with many missing all over her body; Whirly isn't much better. We also had a Rhode Island Red, Trudy, who had a very large, sour crop. She died as well. Perhaps the cause of that was Marek's, since it can affect the Vagus nerve...

    Again, all birds are vaccinated for Marek's, but I know that isn't a 100% safeguard. The 10 from My Pet Chicken look good, the the others I worry about. I will get pictures of the birds tomorrow. I have spent the afternoon reading about Marek's, and I feel quite certain that my Sussex girls have Ocular Marek's. And perhaps Laila didn't have coccidiosis, but Marek's when she was 6 weeks old. I am thinking that my flock has Marek's. I realize that there is no treatment for this, but I would like to know definitively. Can a live bird be tested? If this is Marek's, what can I expect in the future? Will more die off unexpectedly? I assume that I cannot introduce birds that have not been vaccinated, right?

    I love my girls, all of them are named, they are VERY tame, so culling is out of the question. Ugh...this is rotten. Any help/replies/advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!!
     
  2. 7chicks

    7chicks New Member

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    I have no advice. Just a whole bunch of very heart felt I'm so sorries. Its amazing what wonderful pets chickens really are when given the chance & time. Praying you are able to get the answers you need soon so this tragedy can stop.
     

  3. stevcolx

    stevcolx New Member

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    Praying does nothing. But you can always hope. Hope for some expert advice. Try some hollistic and alternative medicine before you get the proper advice in what to do. I know that is like a shot in the dark but it's better than nothing. I told my wife to put some Colloidal Silver in our chickens water and it seems to have improved them. We have silver discs in the water troughs for the horses. Now they will only drink from the troughs that have the discs. You can only but try. It's disheartening to see your flock die. Especially when you have given them names and learned their different characters and habits.

    I wish you well

    Colin
     
  4. hockeychick

    hockeychick Junior Member

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    Thanks. The next one that dies I will bring to vet for necropsy.
     
  5. cgmccary

    cgmccary New Member

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    I have endured Marek's for years and though long winded, it might give you some comfort & thought.

    There was a time that if a flock was NPIP certified, in my State, that one could take a live (deteriorating) bird or deceased bird and have it tested at the State lab (about an hour's drive for me) for free, NO CHARGE. Of course, the bird was put down if still alive when taken to the lab (they would always tell me this no matter how many times I had been there & taken a bird). The last bird I took, there was a nominal fee ($25-$35) because Alabama, like all state governments, is desperate for money so they now charge a fee (fee is less if you are NPIP). They do a preliminary dissection and then send it to a lab for more thorough examining and tissue/ blood analysis. You get both analyses & they look for ALL the poultry diseases (whether or not it is what caused the death or not). The reports are great. If there are any internal parasites, they even I.D. them. If you simply take to the Vet, they are sending to your State lab. I would think that you would have to pay a Vet fee in addition to the State lab fee (for handling). Perhaps, find how your State will let you submit a bird for testing & skip the Vet part of it.

    The point I want to make is that many times, it was something I never imagined, such as a cancerous tumor in the ovary, another time it could not be determined. Chickens are excellent at hiding sickness or injury until it is very late in the game and that is why sometimes it seems they die suddenly. Many times, I have noticed a bird acting not herself one day (or acting uncharacteristic) and dead the next day. Also, any accident you can imagine, at one time, it seems to have happened to me. I am lucky to have 6 and 7 year old hens still.

    Over several years, I had a couple of birds a year that I would have to finally put down & I was sure it was Marek's: it was the classic paralysis form, first one leg, wobbly (unsteady) on their feet, then the other leg, finally could not walk, then could not stand, loss of leg use completely, wing control then lost -- at this point, I would end it (I would not let them starve to death). They are not in pain but just get to where they cannot reach food or water (otherwise alert, talkative, knowing). It seemed to happen to pullets at point of lay and cockerels when they were 8-12 months old. I have lost some to sudden death at an older age (but cannot always make the drive to the State lab & confirm Marek's but I suspected Marek's at later age). Then, there is the part about immediately REFRIGERATING (NOT freezing) the body. Freezing does something to the blood that prevents some of the tests so I need to find the dead bird right away and refrigerate the carcass (just keep cold, not freeze the body).

    I finally got one of the paralyzed birds while still alive, total leg paralysis, drove him to the State lab and yes, they confirmed it was Marek's. Each year, I have lost a bird or two. I could spot the onset right away, always about the same age. However, I started to breed ONLY older, proven (surviving) hens (3-4 years old) and Cocks at least 1-2 years old. I realize that Marek's can strike at any age, and Marek's takes on different forms (the sudden death at an older age could always be Marek's) but for me the paralysis form was the most common I was seeing & it would ALWAYS be the best bird of that hatching season. The second point is you MUST confirm it by your State lab test OR it could be something you never imagine & not the same thing twice (unless it is classic Marek's which to my eye is unmistakable).

    After breeding only older birds the last few years, I was hoping to breed for classic Marek's resistance. I hate doing the vaccinating because you waste so much vaccine & it is a pain in the rear. I would rather have a flock that is naturally resistant or can take Marek's. The Marek's virus is ubiquitous, worldwide & long lived (50 years or more, so if on site, on premises, it is there forever).

    Last year, again of course, my best cockerel (the absolute nicest, best type male I hatched too) and a pullet went down with the classic Marek's. The pullet got to where she could not walk or stand. I decided to let her have one last nice day (it was one of those blue sky days). I had to keep the geese off her & protect her from being harassed but put her in the shade in the yard near water she could reach. The next thing I knew she was standing and trying to walk again. To make a long story short, she gradually begin walking, slowing at first, haltingly, stumbling but made a full recovery and commenced laying again. To see her, you would not know she had reached that point. The Cockerel I wanted to show but he was down to crawling on his belly when shows rolled around, (I kept a couple of his brothers who I showed at the only show I went to this year & one did well). The paralyzed bird, I had him isolated in his own pen at the time I left for the show & planned on putting him down when I got back. Well when I got back, I found he could again stand up and slowly over a week or two, he was walking and he has made a full recovery. I have bred him and he has vigor as all his hens' eggs were fertile and hatched well. So, I had no deaths from Marek's this past year but for the first time, I had two total recoveries from what appeared to be classic Marek's.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2012
  6. Westelle

    Westelle New Member

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    I am sorry for the troubles you are having due to this virus...but glad you had to chickens recover. It is quite helpful to hear about these detailed experiences as a new chicken hobbiest. Thanks for sharing...
     
  7. 7chicks

    7chicks New Member

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    What an informative write up you shared cgmccary! Thank you for sharing your knowledge & experience with us!!!
     
  8. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

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    Might want to familiarize yourself with nutritional issues as well. Many excesses and deficiencies can present with weakness or neurological signs like falling over, paralysis, leg problems. I've seen it in cranes, raptors and I know it happens at big poultry farms 'cause I know the guy they consult for nutrition and heard his stories.
     
  9. cgmccary

    cgmccary New Member

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    Yes, I am very familiar with nutrition & agree that some deficiencies can mimic Marek's or other neurological disorders and that is why I have dead or dying birds tested & examined. Marek's is common and for me, the nutritional deficiency is not possible. Also, lab tests confirmed it was Marek's for those 1-2 birds I would have to go down each year.

    I feed a GameBird Feed year round (Starter (30%), Conditioner (19%), Layena (20%) & Maintenance (12%)) as it contains both plant and animal proteins (and the feed companies monitor it better than they do the regular poultry feeds). My birds free range as well & get daily extras (sunflower seed, millet, wheat, whole corn, rolled oats) & vegetables from the garden (in season watermelon, pumpkin, tomatoes), so I know it is not a nutritional matter.
     
  10. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

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    You put a lot of faith in the feed companies quality control. I do love the fact that they are getting natural, free range and whole foods. I agree that it's likely not nutritional but good feeds can contain salmonella, aflatoxins and imbalances. It happens way more often than it should.
     
  11. cl_dewey

    cl_dewey Junior Member

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    Can someone tell me...if you have Mareks, are the eggs safe to eat? I read that its not supposed to affect the eggs. Also, what about if you are raising meat birds? We aren't, but it makes me wonder if we would try raising birds for meat, if a not yet sickly bird was eaten...would the meat be contaminated?
     
  12. cgmccary

    cgmccary New Member

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    Yes, eggs are safe to eat. Also, Marek's is NOT transmitted/carried in the egg.

    I would not slaughter & eat a bird that came down with Marek's disease (nor any disease), but how would I know if my 18-20 week olds, if not slaughtered, would later die of Marek's? I wouldn't. It is okay to butcher any birds without symptoms. I am sure I have eaten some that if allowed to grow up, would have died of Marek's -- certainly, this is conceiveable.

    Some Marek's Facts:
    Marek's is not transmissible to humans or even to other poultry. Back in the 1970's the chicken industry was losing commercial fowl at the rate of 1.5% monthly. Then the vaccine was developed and fowl were vaccinated and the losses stopped (this saved the industry a lot of $$$ -- i.e. the vaccinating was not for human safety but to improve the profit margin.). The vaccines have been improved over the last 30+ years to provide continued protection from the more virulent strains of Marek's disease.

    Marek's is ubiquitous. If your other birds are not vaccinated, they MAY be immune, or they may still be have been exposed or will be in the future. The virus is long lived, is all around the world and pops up at any time almost everyplace, and unexpectedly.

    If you have even one bird that truly has Marek's Disease, you can be assured that all are exposed. But you have no way of knowing if another will show symptoms until or if they appear. This is why, if you choose to vaccinate, the vaccination must be done at hatch, BEFORE exposure.

    The vaccine is a Turkey herpes vaccine, that causes chickens to develop immunity to some forms of Marek's Disease, mainly the paralysis form.

    {Keeping domestic Turkeys in the run with your chickens is said to be as effective in developing Marek's immunity as vaccination. This is not possible for me because I have blackhead on my premises which is a threat to turkeys - I found this out by having some turkeys-- I was always having to be on alert and treating the turkeys for blackhead.}.

    Marek's virus is spread by the dander of an infected bird (may not show symptoms--ever) And there is no way we can eliminate DUST--we carry it on our clothing. Marek's is a far greater threat than Pullorum/Typhoid --that gets the testing in our country.


    They will not get Marek's from vaccinated chickens--only from the virus, if it is on the premises or brought from visiting people who may have the virus on their clothing, etc. if coming directly from a premise where the virus exists. Or you can bring it yourself by visiting a flock where it exists. Birds may be carriers without exhibiting any symptoms. It is world wide and a good many birds in the whole world are either carrying it, or are naturally immune. How do you know they are immune? You do not! Just because you have never had it with your birds does not mean they are immune--only that they have not been infected, or if they are, they are not showing any symptoms.

    The virus may be virulent and many birds in a flock will die over a relatively short time--or a very "weak" virus that infects few birds. You may have only one bird at a time--over a number of years, die after showing the symptoms. Sudden death may indicate Marek's--you must do a necropsy to be sure. I know this from sending birds to the lab. I recognize the paralysis form to now know with confidence that it is what I am seeing but not the other forms (sudden death, blindness, etc.). It's appearance in a flock is not a death-knell for them all. (Or it can be.)

    That is the insidius nature of the virus--it can affect birds of any age, even in a flock that has never shown symptoms. And it is a long lived virus--once it is on your premises, you waste your effort to try to "disinfect".


    The only question is whether you want to vaccinate NOT do I have Marek's? I choose not to vaccinate for a number of reasons, but it is a personal choice with each person, no right or wrong.

    At its best the vaccine isn't 100% effective in a flock or in an individual bird. Some birds may not be protected at all (prior exposure to disease, poor vaccination husbandry, other current illnesses, ineffective immune systems, etc.); and there are many birds that end up with lesser cases of Marek's because they have been vaccinated but are not fully protected from getting it. The current thought is that the shedding time is shorter in vaccinated birds that do happen to get the virus (the vaccine does not prevent a bird from getting the virus).

    Pros of vaccination- some, but not complete, protection against a potentially devastating virus. Peace of mind.

    Cons of vaccination- cost, both in time and money, if you do it yourself. But certainly cost is always a factor. If you have a closed flock (no new birds in, breed all your own replacements, no biosecurity breakdown)then it is hard to justify the cost.

    A bird of any age CAN be vaccinated. There is, however, little point in vaccinating a bird that is older and therefore not susceptible to the virus. The age at which chickens are normally susceptible to the virus is hatching through about 24 weeks. ANY bird can show signs and symptoms at ANY age. ANY age bird can shed the virus. But they are likely to have caught the virus during a very specific age window in their young lives. Therefore, vaccinating birds after they are grown (and really after exposure to your flock) is pointless. There is a significant amount of cross protection that occurs in chickens when dealing with viruses. In other words virus A, even when not specific to chickens, can induce immunity against Virus A and B. This is what happens with a large number of animal vaccines and is, in fact, what happens with the turkey herpes virus vaccine that induces protection against marek's disease.


    I hope thuis is not too much informtion.


     
  13. Westelle

    Westelle New Member

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    Wow. NO. This is good information. THANK YOU FOR YOUR EXPLANATION...I will have to save this to re read later...so my brain can sort better...I am new to raising chickens.
     
  14. cl_dewey

    cl_dewey Junior Member

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    Thank you for all the info! I have read online about it, but it is always easier coming from a chicken person and not a vet or sales site. I get attached to my ladies, like in Lord of the Rings "they are not for eating!" Lol. Our dog is our rooster and watches over his ladies, so even he is sad when one dies. We have 3 exhibiting paralysis symptoms. The two phoenixes, being small bodied, hobble around and have been like this for a few months. Since they are not starving and are relatively active, I can't bear to put them down. It's kind of sad to watch them, but yet they persevere. Being disabled myself I figure as long as they seem happy...
     
  15. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

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    Good thought. I've been put out to pasture by some and yet I feel like I have something to contribute. Life is precious. There are lessons everywhere. We just need to open our eyes to see them. You seem happier too. Just knowing what you're dealing with seems to have made all the difference. :)
     
  16. cgmccary

    cgmccary New Member

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    I understand. I have individual birds I am attached to & I say they get to live out their lives fully.

    In the paralysis form, the birds are not in pain. As long as they are getting around enough to eat & drink, they should be fine. I usually let mine go all the way down until they no longer can reach food or water before putting them down -- then this last year, I had the two to come all the way back and fully recover (I could not believe it!). Every year I wonder if I should start vaccinating (I actually have some Marek's vaccine in the fridge).

    Chris
     
  17. WeeLittleChicken

    WeeLittleChicken Active Member

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    Wow.. a lot of good information here. Glad I read this thread. I lost a little roo last week to what I believe was the paralysis form - I let it go until he couldn't move enough to eat. Still bothered me a bit to put him down as he was still alert and "talking" but at that point it's just cruel to keep him alive. Now that I know the disease has so many different ways of manifesting I am wondering if this is what killed my pullets a while back. They just up and died... I was driving myself crazy trying to figure out why. I am going to see if I can find a lab now... (all I knew at that time is my regular vet won't do birds of any sort or else I would have tried earlier!) Personally, having formally bred fancy rats to be resistant to several of their common diseases, I think I am going to try and breed a stronger flock. It's sad to lose a few but I think in the long run it's probably better... I mean a chicken hatched with genetic resistance can go to someone else's pasture and be healthy too. It's something to consider.
     
  18. chicksRus

    chicksRus New Member

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    i know this is an old thread, but i just joined and am looking around on the site, and from reading the above, i have a question. i want to feed my flock organic food, because i'm starting an egg business, and because i want their eggs to be as healthy as possible. this game feed that cgmccary is talking about sounds great. i'm in cullman and have not yet found a maker/distributor of feed that i trust. maybe i could order it from amizon, or make a once a month trip to the place that sells these chicken foods. the fact tat they monitor production more carefully is encouraging. i feed mine supplemental diet as well- all of the foods that cgmccary mentioned. i figure they need a variety of nutrients from live foods. i've been concerned about their feed being mediocre versus being great for a while now, and must locate this place that sells premium chicken food. i hope someone will read this and advise, even though it's on an old thread.
     
  19. robin416

    robin416 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Chicks, you probably should post your own topic under the feed forum. This is a topic that everyone should be aware of and will allow more participation.
     
  20. chicksRus

    chicksRus New Member

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    okay, will do. thanks.