Precautions to Preventing
an outbreak of
Avian Polyoma Virus
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Most bird owners are unaware of the devastating impact
Avian Polyoma Virus infection can have or the simple precautions
that can be taken to prevent an outbreak.
The birds that we need to worry about most
with this disease are young Psittacines between 2 weeks and 5
months of age. Birds that are infected during this time will die,
most commonly at weaning. If infected later they will not show
any signs, but may become carriers.
Carriers are dangerous because they don't look sick, are
difficult to test for unless they are shedding the virus at the time,
but may shed the virus when there are babies around and hence kill them.
A bird infected with Polyoma virus can show no symptoms, appear
completely healthy in all respects and may not shed the virus
until placed in a situation involving stress. (Such stresses may
include bleeding, undersized cages, being placed in too close
proximity to birds of different species, etc.)
What is Avian Polyoma Virus?
Avian Polyoma Virus (APV) was first discovered in 1981 in budgies
and was called Budgerigar Fledgling disease. It is a virus in the
Polyoma family a group of very small, unencapsulated viruses.
(Viruses are small infectious proteins, which need living cells
What species does it attack?
Fortunately, Polyoma Virus does not effect humans, however, it is
devastating to bird populations and appears to threaten a wide
variety of birds including: Macaws, Amazons, Conures, White
Billed Caiques, Parrotlets, African Greys, Lovebirds, Ring Necked
Parakeets, Eclectus, Scarlet Chested Parrots' Bourke's Parrots,
Budgerigars and Finches.
What does it do and what are the symptoms?
APV targets just about every system, and can be seen in many of
the organ systems. As the vital organs fail, the body is unable
to process food, crop stasis occurs and the bird dies from
dehydration even though the crop is full. Sometimes subcutaneous
hemorrhaging (bleeding under the skin) occurs and other
infections may have set in. Adults may experience weight loss,
recurrent bacterial and fungal infections and poor feather
formation. They may appear to recover but die months later from
If birds infected with APV are bred, nesting and laying can
appear normal. Chicks sometimes die in the shell or hatch in a
very week state only to die within hours. Other chicks may hatch
just fine and appear to be thriving for as long as 15 days,
however, due to a weakening of the vital organs and the immune
system, the body cannot support its own growth and the chicks die
acutely, within hours with full crops. As the vital organs fail
the body is unable to process food, crop stasis occurs and the
chick dies of dehydration although the crop is full.
Some chicks live longer but fail to thrive. They may have poor
muscle tone, swollen abdomens, be unable to fly and never learn
to feed themselves. Still others may seem completely normal,
other than being slow to grow and feather out. These chicks learn
to fly and eat on their own and appear completely normal, but
they may be carriers of the virus and go on to infect others and
How do birds get APV?
Affected birds may shed the virus intermittently. Parents may
infect offspring through vertical transmission into the egg
before laying, regurgitation of food, via exfoliated crop cells.
Fostered eggs and chicks can pass the virus on to new parents.
The virus can be shed in feather dust and transmitted though
breathing the air near an infected pair. Studies suggest that the
virus could be shed from all bodily functions, reproductive,
gastrointestinal and renal functions, so the virus may appear in
feces, urine, eggs and sperm. The virus may also be exhaled and
in turn inhaled by others.
People who care for birds may inadvertently transmit the virus
through their own breathing actions, as well as by contact with
the dust on clothing and debris on shoes.
What is the cure?
There is no known cure but a vaccine is available, not readily,
in Canada and it can be costly. Baby birds can be vaccinated at 5
weeks of age with a booster 2 to 3 weeks later. If there is an
outbreak in your aviary all birds should be vaccinated annually
to help them protect against the virus and to decrease the
concentration of the virus in the environment.What can we do to
prevent it?For the health of the rest of our flock, all new
birds, no matter what the source, should be quarantined and vet
checked before introduction to your own collection. There are
several schools of thought as to how long the quarantine should
last. Recommendations range from 30 to 90 days. Ask your vet and
follow his/her recommendation.
Nursery management is a very important factor, how babies are
fed, using the same tools for hand-feeding instead of fresh ones
for each clutch, not mixing species together, keeping species
separate.When you are visiting another aviary, follow a set of
rules. Change clothes before and after the visit so that you do
not inadvertently bring something in on your clothing or shoes.
Do not handle the birds unless you are invited to and disinfect
your hands before and after.
The source of an infection of APV into an aviary is almost
impossible to identify. Birds taken on visits or to public
displays can contract the virus simply be being close to an
infected bird or it's caregiver. Virus particles can also be
passed on in dust on books or other aviary equipment moved from
an infected aviary to an unaffected one it can be spread from
second-hand cages, nest boxes, used seed cups, etc., which are
not thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before coming into a home
or aviary with birds.
APV can rapidly spread once established in an aviary. Particles
can evaporate into the air from feces as they dry, can spread
through air flow, disturbance of even the smallest amount of dust
and physical contact of caregivers.
APV particles are very resistant in the environment. The can
survive in extreme heat and can contaminate an environment for an
extended period of time. There is no information as to just how
long. Polyoma is also very resistant to many disinfectants;
however, chlorine bleach is thought to be effective, as well as
Closed aviaries are encouraged for people who wish to breed
birds, in order to avoid infections. Any new birds entering the
aviary should be tested for Polyoma and other diseases while in
quarantine, and no visitors should be permitted into the aviary.
A bird, which is shedding APV, can be kept as a pet, but only in
a situation where it does not expose other birds, particularly
neonates, to the virus. Veterinarians do not recommend keeping
infected birds as pets in a home or aviary where breeding is
taking place, even if they are in a separate room and if a bird
is identified as having APV.
Any chicks that die in the nest for no apparent reason should be
taken, within 24 hours or sooner, to an avian pathologist for
necropsy. Fresh samples are necessary to identify the virus. Live
birds can be tested for APV by an avian veterinarian; however,
the testing is not cheap, as samples must be sent to the U. S. A.
for analysis. The best defense is prevention. Education about
this infection is the first line of defense in protecting our
In closing, Polyoma is out there, yes, it can have devastating
effects but it can also be managed. We can all start by examining
our own practices and following the hygiene guidelines so many
people believe are only for those "big bird owners". We can cut
down the incidence of this virus by how we manage our own
Original Publisher: American Society
Web site: http://www.acstiels.com
What to Do About Avian Polyoma Virus
In research conducted by the Psittacine Disease Research Group at
the University of Georgia, chlorine dioxide was shown to be the
disinfectant of choice in eradicating avian polyomavirus over the
7 leading disinfectants available to aviculturists. Results of the study were
published in the Journal of the Association of Avian Veterinarians
The only source of stabilized chlorine dioxide available to
aviculturist's today is in Oxyfresh products. They has taken
chlorine dioxide to create "Oxygene" which is a stabilized form
of the chemical.
These products were originally produced for the dental
industry as an alternative to conventional harsh and
harmful disinfectants. Dent-A-Gene,
their most powerful
disinfectant, is an EPA registered antimicrobial.
The antimicrobial efficacy of chlorine dioxide against bacteria,
fungi, viruses and protozoa has been repeatedly demonstrated
and documented. This disinfectant kills polyoma virus in 1
minute contact time at a 200 parts per million dilution.
It is very safe, has an extremely low toxicity, and is not
harsh to use. The use procedure is simple. The aviary or
cage must be scrubbed. Then a prepared solution is either
sprayed, mopped or wiped on - and left. That's it! No need to
move your birds out, no fancy preventative measures, no metal
corrosion, no toxic residues.
Dent-A-Gene is becoming the
of choice amongst many aviculturists.
They also make a Cleansing Gele that is a cleaner
containing chlorine dioxide. It is one of the easiest cleaners
you will find. Spray it on, wait 5 minutes and wipe or rinse
it off. The Cleansing Gele was also found
to be effective as a
disinfectant (5 minute contact time) by The University of
Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine.
Cleansing Gele also softens hard droppings like nothing
Spray all visible surfaces in cages and aviaries a couple of
times a week with Cleansing Gele, wait 5 minutes, and sponge it off.
There is no "bird odor" because excrement isn't accumulating and chlorine
dioxide is a very effective natural deodorizer.
Along with its disinfecting properties, chlorine dioxide is also
a natural anti-inflamatory, making it very useful for wound
treatment. Veterinarians are using a chlorine dioxide gel mixed
with aloe vera to treat incisions and wounds. It's also very good
as a spray for feather pickers.
More About Dent A Gene & Cleansing Gele Here
On that page select the Dental products for the Dent-A-Gene
and Pet Products for the Cleansing Gel