Marek's Disease - 3rd death


7 Years
May 1, 2012
Dear All,

Apologies in advance for the rather morbid tone of this posting however we are on the eve of what will more than likely be the 3rd death of a chicken within a 4 month period.

All 3 birds have presented with symptoms of Marek's disease - rapid weight loss and increasing inability to use their legs and wings, unsteady on feet, respiratory difficulty and death.

Our starter flock was 3 ex-battery birds in April 2012. Bird 1 died late December 2012 and Bird 2 died early January 2013 (approximately 2 weeks apart). Bird 3 is still strong and healthy.

After the death of Bird 2 we decided that rather than leave Bird 3 solo that we would get two more birds. Birds 4 & 5 were pullets purchased from a reputable dealer as far as can be established.

Bird 4 has since presented with similar symptoms to that Bird 1 and Bird 2 who eventually died.

Despite efforts to feed and water Bird 4, she is refusing to eat and drink, even through a syringe. We have medicated for worms within the last 48 hours as an infection was found. The pullets have paperwork showing that a vaccination for Marek's was given at day 1. However I am aware that the vaccination has a success rate of 90% under laboratory conditions.

Is Marek's more prevalent in some areas than others? I live near Birmingham UK.
As Marek's is highly contagious is it likely that it has been transmitted between the birds, but owing to vaccination they have not been susceptible to it?
After the death of Bird 2, the concrete floored enclosure was cleared of litter. The coop was also cleared and the perches given a scrape. Is it likely that due to me not having used disinfectant that the Mareks virus has persisted in the coop from January to now?
Do you feel that, given the evidence, that I am unnecessarily jumping to Marek's as the cause of the illness?

Thank you in advance.


Hi JamieMc,

I haven't experienced Marek's with any of my birds, so all this is "book" knowledge. Other members have mentioned disinfecting all areas that the birds had access to as the virus can stubbornly survive in detritus in the soil, organic and inorganic materials in and around the coop and run, etc. There is an article on Marek's virus at DuPont's website. Notable for BYCers tasked with cleaning up an area for new birds include:

• The highly resistant virus is stable for 65 weeks in the un-cleaned environment surviving in poultry feathers, dust, and dander
• Highly effective, four stage Terminal cleaning and disinfection programmes using a proven virucidal disinfectant such as DuPont Virkon® S is recommended.

I think the common disinfectant talked about on these forums is bleach water/oxine, though I am not sure how well that would work on exposed soil. This thread has more information more knowledgeable members than I have posted on the subject. It sounds like physical cleaning such as sweeping the area and scraping down roosts and such would be inadequate to destroy the virus.

It's also possible that something other than Marek's virus killed the birds, without a knowledgeable person testing for it or whatever the disease may have been, but those do sound like Marek's symptoms.
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