Vaccinating for Marek's Disease
What is Marek's Disease and what are it's symptoms?
Marek's Disease usually affects younger birds but can also be present in adult birds. Marek's is caused by a virus in the Herpes group and it's lesions are commonly seen in the kidneys, spleen and liver. The virus is spread through dander, dust and feather follicles and is able to survive in depopulated areas for several months. Marek's is also known as "Range Paralysis".
Common symptoms of Marek's Disease include paralysis of wings, legs and neck, weight loss, diarreha and heavy respiration. You may notice your bird "sit" on it's butt or drop one or both wings. In more advanced stages, you may see your bird fall over and not be able to right itself.
Can I vaccinate my adult birds?
It is ideal to vaccinate birds when they are first hatched, however, you can vaccinate adult birds and birds that have already been exposed to the virus.
Where can I purchase the vaccination?
First State Vet Supply (www.firststatevalleysupply.com) has just about everything you need to vaccinate your birds. You will need to purchase: The live virus (item # VA51), the shipping container for the virus (item # SP99), several 1cc syringes with needles (item # M737), one large syringe with needle big enough to pull 50cc of diluent (I bought mine from the feed store), and sterile diluent or sterile water (At least 50cc bottle. I believe they include the diluent with the live virus.).
I have all of the supplies. Now how do I vaccinate?
It's very simple! These directions will make enough vaccine to vaccinate 250 birds. Now is a good time to ask any of your other chicken friends if they'd also like to vaccinate their birds (this is why I suggest you buy several syringes and needles).
First, it is very important that the live virus and vaccination stays cold. Once you mix the vaccine, it must be used within two hours, no exceptions! It can not be frozen and will not be safe to use if older than two hours, or used if frozen and thawed. The virus will die if warm, so if you have a lot of birds to vaccinate, leave the vaccination on ice or in an ice bath.
Second, the mixing must be done in a glass container. Also, when you mix the live virus with the diluent, you must swirl the glass container. Do not put anything into the vaccine to mix it.
Again, this mixture will vaccinate 250 birds, so if you have more, adjust accordingly. If you purchased the items from First State Vet, you will have enough to vaccinate 1000 birds.
Ready to mix? OK- You will have a bottle with the live virus in it. The virus is a little "cake" and needs to be split into four equal parts. Use a toothpick to cut the cake in fours. You'll have to get the toothpick into the bottle to cut it, then shake one quarter piece out of the bottle and into your glass container. Put the unused cake back into the refridgerator immediately! Now, take your large syringe with needle and draw 50cc of diluent (it may take several draws depending on what size syringe you have). Do not open the bottle. Puncture the rubber stopper with the needle to draw the diluent. Mix the vaccine by swirling the glass container. The diluent can be kept in a dark cabinet, but I put mine in the fridge. The diluent can keep for a long time but throw it out if you notice fog or growth in the bottle.
Now is a good time to put your vaccine on ice or in an ice bath. Get your 1cc syringes with and head out to the coop! This seems to work best when the chickens are roosting and it's best to have someone hold the bird while you vaccinate.
The dose is .2cc (2/10cc) and it is given under the skin of the neck. While your helper holds the bird, use one had to pull up the skin on the back of the neck. Use your other hand to adminster the vaccine. A tiny prick is good enough. You want it just under the skin. Once everyone is done, dispose of the needles and syringes properly and dispose of the vaccine. Again, DO NOT use it past two hours and do not attempt to freeze it!
You may notice that some or all of your birds will act "different" for a few days after the vaccine. They were injected with a live virus, just like if you had a flu shot, so they may feel under the weather for a couple of days. They will be back to normal soon.
If you have any questions, just shoot me a PM!