Unlike Psittacosis, which is caused by bacteria, the following three “P’s” are caused by viruses, one of which being Polyoma!
First, let’s take a closer look at viruses in general. Viruses, unlike other diseases, can only multiply inside a “host,” such as an infected bird. Viruses are often “species-specific,” which means that human viruses cannot infect birds and vice versa. Viruses are further classified as “enveloped” or “nonenveloped.” Nonenveloped viruses are significantly tougher and can survive outside the body for far longer than enclosed viruses. Polyomavirus is a nonenveloped virus, which implies it is resistant to many disinfectants, as well as freezing and severe heat exposure. However, contact to chlorine bleach or 70% isopropyl alcohol rendered it inert. This implies that exercising proper husbandry and carefully sanitizing your nursery and equipment can aid in the prevention of illness transmission – even viruses! (I’ll go into more detail about this in a future piece.) Polyomavirus is not only resilient and difficult to destroy, but it is also extremely infectious and often lethal – this is not a disease to be taken lightly!
It is a major problem for breeders and bird retailers since it mostly affects newborn parrots. Adult birds may get infected, generally as a result of a secondary infection with another viral illness, such as PBFD. Polyoma is more common in caiques of all ages, although it may afflict hookbills of all species. When adults get infected, it is seldom deadly, but they may exhibit minor symptoms. It is particularly likely to affect individuals who are already ill and have weakened immunity.
Polyomavirus, like many other avian viruses, was discovered in the 1980s. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, significant research was conducted to better understand the virus – how it multiplies and spreads, how to best detect it, and how to prevent and cure it. Dr. Branson Ritchie is a leading avian researcher on this illness. I discovered a lot of contradictory information on many parts of this virus, as well as some dispute among the researchers!
Polyoma, like Psittacosis, may be diagnosed using both fecal and blood testing. However, fecal testing for Polyomavirus are only accurate when birds are actively shedding the virus. It’s a good idea to test birds twice since the virus doesn’t always show up.
In terms of how the virus spreads, most newborns are infected by parent regurgitation. It may also be airborne, infecting other birds who inhale the virus via infected birds’ dander. (When birds preen and shake out their feathers, they release a lot of dander into the air. Using a high-quality air filter may help minimize dander.)
Feather abnormalities are occasionally present as symptoms, however they are not always. Of course, misshapen feathers may suggest a variety of other issues and disorders, including P.B.F.D. Polyomavirus was formerly thought to be related with “Budgie Fledgling Disease,” but we now know that many giant hookbills are also vulnerable to this virus. Budgies, on the other hand, exhibit a variety of symptoms, including impaired coordination and belly distention. Other parrot chicks may seem unhappy, have weak appetites, delayed crop emptying, and frequent regurgitation. The chick usually dies within 48 hours. Sometimes no symptoms appear. Adults may also die suddenly, often with no warning symptoms.
Unfortunately, no treatment is currently available, though there is a vaccine to prevent infection, and it is a good idea to vaccinate children. The effectiveness of this vaccine is being debated within the scientific community. The University of Georgia’s Psittacine Disease Research Group is developing a new “high-tech” Polyoma vaccine. Researchers have made significant progress in understanding this virus, and they have identified the incubation period as well as how long infected birds can continue to shed the virus. In terms of accurately identifying the virus in the blood, improved diagnostic tests are now significantly more reliable than just a few short years ago. Stay tuned for exciting developments in the fight against this deadly disease over the next decade! Don’t forget to contribute to avian research!
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