Report On West Nile Virus & Exotic Birds

I just visited the Midwest Avian Research Exposition and was lucky to hear Dr. Susan Clubb give an amazing talk on her work with birds suspected of having West Nile Virus. The term “suspected” is used since there is currently no test to distinguish between West Nile Virus and St. Louis Encephalitis. Indeed, West Nile is now known as West Nile Encephalitis.

Seizures, ataxia, uncoordination, weight loss, diarrhea, tremors, general neurological disorders, brain lesions, and death are all symptoms in birds.

The disease outbreak component is expected to be less severe in exotics, notably parrots, than in corvids (crows) and jays, which have been almost wiped out in numerous epidemic locations. Dr. Clubb, who is in Florida and has a private practice in addition to being the treating veterinarian at Parrot Jungle, has not observed the amount of potentially sick birds that we were concerned about. She reported that she had treated less than a dozen diseased birds, and that many of them had recovered with supportive care. Dr. Clubb went on to say that she believes the condition has a low morbidity and fatality incidence in parrots. There have been reported occurrences of bird-to-bird transmission, but only in corvids and jays, not exotic species.

A vaccination has been produced and is presently being utilized in zoos, bioparks, and research sites. So far, there have been no adverse effects to the vaccination, and even at modest doses, it has produced significant antibodies in all birds. Although there were no clinical indications in the hens, the immunization caused renal damage and brain abnormalities. The vaccination now costs $12 each shot.

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