Calling all experts: questions about Marek's in vaccinated birds

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by sunshinegirl, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. sunshinegirl

    sunshinegirl Out Of The Brooder

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    I have 27 10-wk-old birds that I got from the hatchery as day-olds. They were all supposed to be vaccinated for Marek's. 5 wks ago (at 5 wks old), one of my BA pullets started having equilibrium problems. She was having trouble standing and walking, just flopped around, skittered sideways, fell over, tipped on her nose, etc. No injuries, mites, lice, fever, congestion, or any other signs of illness. We tried vitamin E/selenium, CoQ10, yogurt (all in case it was a nutrient deficiency), with no change. I've tried several times to seperate her from the others, but she gets really upset being by herself (cries and thrashes around, spills food and water, etc.). Over the past 5 weeks she's had good days and bad days, but as a whole hasn't gotten any better or worse. She's never seemed to be in any pain or acted depressed, ate and drank well, and seemed to compensate well for her mobility issues. The only thing I could figure is that she must have suffered some kind of spinal injury or stroke. Seeing as though I'm not a breeder or commercial farmer and I don't mind giving her extra care, I figured (as long as she didn't seem to be really suffering) I would just raise one "special needs pet". However a few days ago things started to get worse. Although her stilted gait has improved slightly, she now seems to be having trouble controling her neck movements, which is making it difficult for her to eat and drink. I also noticed she's getting some redness and swelling around the feather folicles under her wings. Then, day before yesterday, one of my EE pullets (10 wks old) started having similar problems. She doesn't seem to be as severely affected as the first one, but is definitely staggering and can't walk even a few steps in a straight line. This morning the EE was sitting in the "classic Marek's pose", with one leg forward and one leg back behind her.

    I've poured through books, combed the internet, and searched posts on the board trying to get as much information as I can, and this just really seems like Marek's to me. So all you experts out there - or even anyone who's had any experience with this disease - can you help me to understand a little better?

    I've read that the vaccine isn't 100% effective - that about 5-10% of vaccinated birds still get the disease, and that the vaccine can't protect against all strains. Has anyone ever had a confirmed case of Marek's in a vaccinated bird? Is it common?

    How reliable are hatcheries when it comes to vaccinating chicks? Is it possible they really weren't vaccinated? Or vaccinated improperly? Or that there was a problem with the vaccine? If all of my birds were suppossedly vaccinated, what are the risks that the rest of them will get sick too?

    I would also like to hear from anyone who has a bird that's survived Marek's. How long did it take for them to recover? Tilda (my BA) has been sick for 5 weeks now. [​IMG] Is there any chance at all that she will recover? If she does, will she always need special care? If there's really no hope then I know I need to put her down, but if she has any chance of living a decent life I'm all for giving it to her.

    And finally, is there anything I can do to help these two get better? I've been making sure they both have food and water in front of them at all times, checking on them every couple hours, and helping them to get around when they need it. I woudn't mind paying a vet bill, but I've called around and I can't find a vet in my area that will even see a chicken.

    Sorry this is so long, but I'm just at my wit's end trying to figure this out. Any and all help and advice will be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. chickenzoo

    chickenzoo Emu Hugger

    Hi, I have delt with Mareks before in some of my birds. i have a EE roo that I vacc that still got the type that affected his eyes and he has limited sight. I have had others that were not Vacc and lived although it took months and lots of tlc. Mareks often does more damage by lowering the immune system, and allowing other dieases to take over. Any supplement that you can give for uping the immune system will help. Also there is reserch that giving the affected chicken the vacc can help them improve. Mareks vacc does not keep them from getting the it, only from the tumors developing that often cause death.I would up the amount of vitamins given, up the protien in her food, you can also give parrot hand feeding formula because it is loaded with good stuff. All Bird Products on line has some stuff used on parrots that are losing weight, it's called Survive. Petilite in the water is helpful, also Red Cell horse Vit. has good stuff in it. I hope some of this helps...good luck
     
  3. sunshinegirl

    sunshinegirl Out Of The Brooder

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    chickenzoo, thank you so much for your reply. This information helps.

    I have had others that were not Vacc and lived although it took months and lots of tlc.

    So it could take months for my babies to recover? If there's a chance that they will recover, then I'll do everything I can for months!

    Also there is reserch that giving the affected chicken the vacc can help them improve.

    So even though these two were vaccinated as day-olds, should I still order some vaccine and give it again? It's administered sub-q in the back of the neck, right? My mom gives all our horses shots, and I'm sure I could get her to do it for me. Would there be any risks to giving them another vaccination?

    Mareks often does more damage by lowering the immune system, and allowing other dieases to take over. Any supplement that you can give for uping the immune system will help

    Okay, got it. I've been putting vitamins/electrolytes in the water, I'll keep doing this. I'll see if I can order some Survive and Red Cell/Poultry Cell tonight. Do you think garlic would be a good idea? Also, would antibiotics be a good preventitive measure? I know they won't help the Marek's, but maybe they could help ward off possible secondary infections?

    Thanks again for sharing your experience and advice. Sometimes it helps just to know you're not alone.​
     
  4. chickenzoo

    chickenzoo Emu Hugger

    If your chicky has been Vacc then from my understanding she should only develope some of the mareks systoms, but not the tumors. There are some that will still, no vacc is 100%, but chances that they won't are better. I'm not sure about how well Vacc already Vacc chicks will help, so you may want to talk to your states Department of Animal & Ag. they would be able to give more info. As far as antibiotics, IMO it wouldn't hurt if she does not respond to Vit's. I think her main worry would be losing weight and developing another diease or infection. Do not give vitamins and antibotics at same time. I would use meds only if the Vit don't seem to be helping. I also gave Dexamethazone shots to mine, it is a steroid that helps reduce swelling and irratation. It can be a long road but her chances are better since she was previously Vacc. i would Vacc any chicken that has not been so already- good luck...
     
  5. sunshinegirl

    sunshinegirl Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks again. I'll stick with vitamins and good nutrition for now, and watch them very closely for signs of any kind of secondary infections.

    So far Tilda (the BA that's been having trouble for 5 wks) has seemed fairly strong and otherwise healthy. She just can't stand or walk very well. She manages to get herself around somewhat by furiously flapping her wings and kind of half wobbling/half flying. She falls over a lot, but often will catch herself with one wing. Sometimes she can take six or seven unsteady steps, but it seems to take a lot out of her. The neck paralysis seems to have subsided, at least for now. She is growing, but not nearly as much as the others. But then again, my other two (healthy) BAs are a little smaller than most of the others.

    Priscilla (my EE that just started showing symptoms a few days ago) was one of my biggest, strongest girls. She seems about the same right now - can't stand up, does "the splits" when she sits, wobbles back and forth and falls on her nose when she tries to walk. As long as neither one seems to be really suffering, I'll keep up the vigil and hope for the best.

    Thanks again for all your help.
     
  6. chickenzoo

    chickenzoo Emu Hugger

    wishing you the best of luck....[​IMG]
     
  7. ajablu

    ajablu Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am going through this with my Silkie. She has come through the not being able to stand part, but walks wobbly still. She also ended up with curled toes on one foot even though we are giving her vitamins.
    We made her a "shoe" that we saw on a post and hope it helps her.
    I also wonder if her eyes are affected.
    They are so dark it is hard for me to see them well. She didn't have the gray color, but after eating like crazy through it she stopped and we realized she didnt seem able to see . We could tell she was not responding to seeing our hand or movement right near her face. We had to put the food into her mouth for two days but now she is eating well again on her own. She eats when there is good light on the food and still seems as if her vision is affected.
    I don't know if this will improve. We are taking this one day at a time and as long as she doesn't appear to be in pain we are doing all we can to help her. I am worried about her being lonely, but I am keeping her apart from the others. So far no one else is showing symtoms. I dont know if vaccinating them will make a difference since they must have been already exposed too. I also don't know how long it takes to spread through the others once one is sick. My Silkie did the same thing with one leg forward and the other backwards and falling down onto her nose. She can now sit up right but walks wobbly. I am sure the curled toes make that worse so I hope the treatment works. I am giving her vitamins, and things like yogurt and scrambled eggs in addition to her mash. I just wanted you to know you are not alone. It has been hard to see her sick and she is our first chicken ever to get sick so we are learning. The people here have been so helpful. I want to wish you the best with your chickens.
    Michele
     
  8. sunshinegirl

    sunshinegirl Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks Michelle. I hope all goes well with your little one too.[​IMG]

    These are my first ones to have any problems as well. It's just so frustrating because I did have them vaccinated, and I thought this was at least one problem I wouldn't have to deal with. But I'm learning that vaccination isn't iron-clad insurance.

    I know a lot of people would just cull them. But as long as they seem to be managing, aren't in constant pain and not depressed, then I feel like they deserve a chance to get better and have a life. Maybe I'm too soft-hearted, but they've really become almost family members around here even though we originally got them for eggs.
     
  9. mypicklebird

    mypicklebird Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 8, 2008
    Sonoma Co, CA
    Long & blunt:

    Vaccinating at day one is fairy effective at protecting chicks. You do not have any way of knowing whether the hatchery vaccinated/vaccinated correctly except trust, or whether your birds actually have Marek's unless you have one or more tested, or whether the hatchery vaccinated and you happen to have a more pathologic Marek's strain on your property. It can come in with chickens, insects, fomites, or wild birds.

    IF your birds have Marek's- keep in mind this is a herpes VIRUS, which is spread through feather dust. The longer you keep infected birds in your environment, the more massively contaminated your environment becomes.

    Most vets who have experience with this would recommend, once you have this bug- close your flock- let it die off or cull, decontaminate before you bring new and definitely vaccinated birds in.

    The Fort Dodge Marek's vaccine is to be given to day old chicks. It should not hurt an older bird, but NO vets I know, think this is useful.

    The two forms of Marek's (neurologic and neoplastic <tumors>) are progressive and the birds do not get better. If your bird gets better, it did not have Marek's.

    Culling if done humanely is appropriate for a chicken with Marek's. You do it to protect your current and future flock, as well as decrease suffering in the affected bird. Chickens like to scratch, preen, dust bathe, ect. A disoriented, weak, staggering bird is a stressed bird- they have a very strong desire to eat and drink- and can carry on for some time, and longer if people bring food and water to them and keep them clean, but I do not think this is a happy bird. The Marek's virus does not directly kill the birds often- it does not give them severe diarrhea, cause heart failure or sepsis- it makes them unable to walk, keep themselves clean, feed themselves normally ect. If uncared for- they generally dehydrate or starve, fall victim to predators or get pecked to death by other chickens.

    If you have Marek's in your flock, it is a big bummer, but there is no good reason in my mind to keep a bird like this- it will be hard on the bird, hard on you, and you are contaminating your environment with more infectious feather dander each day you keep them. I would really consider having the worse one humanely culled/euthanized ect and having it tested. Then you will know what you are dealing with
    Good luck, Jess
     
  10. sunshinegirl

    sunshinegirl Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you for your reply, Jess. I really appreciate your blunt honesty. I very much want to hear differing opinions so that I can sort out what's right for my birds and my particular situation. Keep in mind that I'm not trying to start an argument here - I just want information, and in order to get my facts straight I have to ask questions...

    chickenzoo wrote:
    have had others that were not Vacc and lived although it took months and lots of tlc.

    mypicklebird wrote:
    The two forms of Marek's (neurologic and neoplastic <tumors>) are progressive and the birds do not get better.

    from The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow:
    some tumors, particularly those of the feather follicles, clear up and the bird recovers on it's own, but survivors are carriers.

    Okay, I'm confused. I need a definite answer, here: Is it possible for a chicken to recover from Marek's or not?

    mypicklebird wrote:
    IF your birds have Marek's- keep in mind this is a herpes VIRUS, which is spread through feather dust. The longer you keep infected birds in your environment, the more massively contaminated your environment becomes.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that once you have Marek's on your property, it's pretty much there forever, and even birds that don't show any symptoms will always be carriers. At this point all my birds have already been exposed. I don't plan on breeding/selling/showing my birds - they'll never leave the property. I've never had chickens on this property before, but we live in a very rural area. There are many people within a one mile radius that keep chickens, and there are tons of wild birds and insects. My guess is that there's just nothing I can really do to completely decontaminate the area. For all practical purposes, does it really matter if my two that are currently showing syptoms are shedding the virus or not? I mean, my birds have already been exposed - what difference does it make? It's my understanding that, when it comes to a virus, you're either infected or you're not. If you get a cold, it doesn't matter if one person around you had a cold or ten - once you're infected, you're infected and you won't be less sick if you just got a little of the virus instead of a lot of it. Again, correct me if I'm wrong. Just trying to learn.

    As far as when to euthanize or not goes - well, that's a personal decision that I have to make. I appreciate and respect everyone's opinions, and for now I'm going to leave it at that.

    I still would really like to hear from anyone else who has any experience with this disease.​
     

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