Pox viruses can infect many species of birds, and each species of bird may have its own unique species of pox virus (mynah bird pox virus, canary pox virus, etc.). Pox viruses can cause several different clinical syndromes, depending upon what part of the body is infected.
What are the signs of pox virus infection?
There are several distinct clinical syndromes seen in birds infected with a pox virus. In the cutaneous form of the disease, nodular or crusted areas of the non-feathered skin are seen. These lesions most often occur around the face and on the feet, beginning as white or yellow areas that rapidly progress to form crusts. In lovebirds, pox virus lesions often appear on darkened or discolored areas of the skin.
In the diphtheritic form of a pox virus infection, lesions may occur by themselves or with skin lesions. Thickened plaques occur in the mouth, throat, or sinuses.
Canary pox may present as sudden death or the sudden onset of difficult breathing.
How is pox virus diagnosed?
While the skin lesions and plaques that occur in pox virus infection can suggest pox virus, abscesses, tumors, and bacterial or fungal diseases may look similar. Diagnosis is made by a biopsy of the lesion; it may be sometimes be possible to isolate the virus from the lesions.
How is pox virus transmitted?
Most commonly, mechanical vectors such as mosquitoes and biting flies transmit the virus from an infected bird to a non-infected one. Birds that are housed outdoors are therefore more susceptible than those kept inside. The virus can also be transmitted after the ingestion of infected scabs or inhalation of aerosols.
How is pox virus treated?
Control of mosquitoes and flies is critical if birds are housed outdoors. Many birds will recover with supportive treatment; local treatment of the crusts may be indicated. Antibacterial therapy is often used if a secondary infection is present. Healthy birds can be vaccinated, although this is most typically done for birds living in a flock rather than an isolated household pet.