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Duck plague

January 1, 1999

Duck plague is caused by a herpesvirus. Infection often results in an acute, contagious, and fatal disease. As with many other herpesviruses, duck plague virus can establish inapparent infections in birds that survive exposure to it, a state referred to as latency. During latency, the virus cannot be detected by standard methods for virus isolation. Studies of domestic species of waterfowl have detected multiple strains of the virus that vary in their ability to cause disease and death. Little is known about the response of wild waterfowl to strain differences.

Duck plague outbreaks are thought to be caused when birds that carry the virus shed it through fecal or oral discharge, thus releasing the virus into food and water with which susceptible birds may have contact. Experimental studies have demonstrated spontaneous virus shedding by duck plague carriers during spring. Changes in the duration of daylight and onset of breeding are thought to be physiological stresses that stimulate virus shedding at this time of year. The carriers are immune to the disease, but the virus shed by them causes infection and disease among susceptible waterfowl. Bird-to-bird contact and contact with virus that has contaminated the environment perpetuate an outbreak. Scavenging and decomposition of carcasses of infected birds also contaminate the environment by releasing viruses from tissues and body fluids. Virus transmission through the egg has been reported, but the role of the egg in the disease cycle remains to be resolved.

Publication Year 1999
Title Duck plague
Authors M. Friend
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Title Information and Technology Report
Series Number 1999-0001
Index ID 2001093
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center