How to prevent Marek's Disease
Although the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) keeps seeking ways to prevent and lower the incidences of Marek's Disease in chickens, it is quite a challenge. The virus that causes this disease, a herpes virus, wasn't even discovered until 1960. Until then, it was hard to detect what caused chickens to grow ill and killed nearly all baby chicks and the first vaccine wasn't available until 1970.
Marek's Disease is very contagious, making it highly desirable to try to control and prevent the spread of the disease. Because the disease is spread from feather follicles, it is crucial to try and isolate sick chickens. After that, however tedious it may be, cleaning up the chicken coops or enclosures, following the strictest hygenic practices, is a necessity. Unfortunately, after one chicken gets sick, there may be others who have the virus and haven't yet shown symptoms.
Symptom in a Marek's Disease infected chicken include paralysis of various parts of a chicken's body. As Marek's Disease worsens, infected poultry may be unable to stay upright or stand. Less common symptoms may not be immediately detected but include tumors in the chicken's internal organs, anemia, no appetite and a general fatigue with anemia.
The prognosis for baby chicks or adult chickens with Marek's Disease is not hopeful. Most birds who get the disease die and many owners of large chicken farms will immediately separate or kill infected chickens to try and control the spread of the disease. A Marek's Disease chicken is simply too contagious and too much of a risk to the rest of the flock, especially since the virus is spread by chicken feathers. It can spread through the air and infect other chickens.
Treatment for the disease simply isn't available - at least, not to save the unvacinnated Marek's Disease chicken. Infected birds should be killed in the least painful way. Other chickens should be watched closely. Baby chicks who get this disease will most likely die. All chickens should immediately be vaccinated to stop the spread of the disease, although infected birds may not respond to the vaccine. However, it could save the lives of many of the chickens.
It is crucial that Marek's Disease be controlled or completely halted in chickens by using a special vaccine. Unfortunately, not all chickens who are vaccinated will be protected against the disease. Research is being conducted, however, to produce disease-resistant chickens. Along with routine vaccinations, these steps may be the best protection for the control of Marek's Disease in chickens. New strains of this disease also continue to evolve and grow. Scientists have been discovering different varieties of Marek's Disease.
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