Sadly lost Elvis: Is it Mareks? Why only 1 bird affected?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by chicknerd, Jul 14, 2010.

  1. chicknerd

    chicknerd Songster

    Apr 28, 2010

    I have a 12-13 week old pullet who appears to have Marek's. Over the past month she has slowed down, starting eating/drinkning while laying down only, and generally keeping to herself. She is the bottom of the pecking order.

    She has paralysis on the left side in both the wing and leg. She can only eat and drink if I present her or place her near foodor water. Her eyes seem clear so far. Her neck is fine so far as well. She seems to gasp for air but sometimes settles down and sleeps without gasping.

    I isolated her about a week ago. She could not move and had somehow separated herself out in the rain in the far end of the run. I am sure she was near death. I give her vitamins and antibiotic twice a day and she seemed to recover except for the paralysis. She can scoot herself to the food or drink, but I have seen no paralysis improvement at all. Poop seems normal but for one day it was bright green (the day after I started antibiotics). Now it is back to normal.

    She is the only one who seems to have any symptoms at all. The other 16 birds show no symptoms.

    I do not know if she was vaccinated or not.

    I have a few questions:

    1) Is this Marek's?
    The left leg does not always present itself in the front.

    2) If not Marek's what else could it be? I read around this forum and thought it might be a vitamin deficiency but again she is still paralyzed.

    3) I have read that some vaccinated birds can recover. How long does it take for the virus to take its course?

    4) Am I being cruel keeping her alive? Is this only the beginning?
    The Marek's information is vague on how long the paralysis will last.

    Thanks for any advice. I will continue to care for her, I just dont want her to suffer.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2010
  2. ranchhand

    ranchhand Rest in Peace 1956-2011

    Aug 25, 2008
    I had a chick last year who presented like that. I had him put down after many weeks, and examined. Turned out it was permanent neurological damage because he had eaten moldy feed. He was low man in the pecking order and was eating food that had spilled into the cracks and crevices. I hope it's not Marek's or the mold.

    Could she have injured herself somehow?
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2010
  3. MotherJean

    MotherJean Songster

    Quote:These answers are informed by a variety of scholarly sources including: Merck Vet Manual, Cornell Univ. Vet College, Univ. of New Hampshire, and others...

    1) and 2) A definite...maybe [​IMG] Mareks can only be definitely diagnosed with a postmortem exam. You can rule out the possibility of vitamin deficiency by giving this bird Polyvisol infant vitamins (without iron). 3 drops directly in the mouth daily. If you don't see some sort of improvement within a week, you should suspect diseases (like Marek's) that do neurological damage. For some there are vaccines for prevention, but there seems to be no treatments or cures. So, whether it is Marek's or some other similar disease, there is nothing you can do and nothing short of a miracle will bring full recovery. Giving antibiotics may help with secondary bacterial infections, but have no effect on viral diseases like Marek's.

    3) Vaccinated birds do not recover from Marek's. The only reason for vaccinating a bird that has been exposed to the virus is to try to prevent the formation of T-cells (tumorous cells) that attack the brain and nervous system (causing paralysis and seizures) or create visceral tumors that interfere with organs or attack the organs directly. The vaccine cannot kill the T-cells or undo the damage they cause. Vaccinating after exposure to Marek's is still relatively experimental and its effectiveness is still under study. The neurological and visceral form of Marek's has been likened to "chicken cancer." There is no hard and fast time-line on the course of the disease, but according to the Univ. of New Hampshire: "Mortality is high in affected birds reaching nearly 100 percent over a 10-week period."

    4) Merck calls the leg paralysis "transitory" because it is generally caused by swelling of the sciatic nerve. If the swelling subsides, the bird may walk again, but do not mistake this as a sign that the bird is "cured" and no longer has the disease. Refer again to the quote from the Univ. of New Hampshire in the preceding paragraph. Paralysis can also be the result of lesions on the brain and this form of paralysis would likely be permanent.

    As to your question: "Am I being cruel keeping her alive?" - I would rather say that it is generally considered an act of human kindness to euthanize any animal that is clearly suffering and has little or no chance of survival. Only you can decide whether or not your bird is suffering.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2010
  4. zazouse

    zazouse Crowing

    Sep 7, 2009
    Southeast texas
    I have a barred rock roo that went threw an episode of leg paralysis, it started with one leg then spread to the other within a week.

    My flock had been vaccinated for marek's, so rather than put him down, i decided to see if he would get better, i used polyvisol in his water for the next 4 weeks and feed him a special diet .

    He went from not being able to walk, to walking on his drumsticks, to standing in 4 weeks, in 6 weeks he was able to walk but it looked like his legs were tied together by 8 weeks he was walking pretty normal so i put him back with the flock.

    This was a year ago and he has fully recovered, with the exception of walking on his tippy toes after mating.

    None of my other bird ever came down with what he had so i can only conclude that he had some kind of head trama.

    It had a rough time making dicisions as weather to put him down or not before he got better but glad i waited it out.

    He is a wonderful roo and i am glad i gave him a chance.

  5. chicknerd

    chicknerd Songster

    Apr 28, 2010
    Thank you all for your replies.

    Motherjean thanks for all the detailed information.
    When I talked about vaccination, I was wondering if my pullet had had the vaccination at 1 day old. I had read that some of these vaccinated birds do survive, because getting the vaccine at one day old can help prevent the cancerous lesions. And I also read that the vaccination does not prevent the disease.

    zazouse - We have just started the second week . She seems so alert and ready to go except for the paralysis. I hope I am as lucky as you!

    If I really feel she is suffering then we will end it. But for now I will give it a few more days and see how she does.

    thanks again so very much.
  6. RedfogsFlock

    RedfogsFlock Songster

    Jan 17, 2010
    Wittmann, AZ
    We just had to put one of our girls down a few days ago from Mareks. She was purchased from a hatchery, & was vaccinated. She did not recover, and we felt she was starting to suffer, so we did the humane thing. Sometimes it really sucks!

    GOOD LUCK with your girl!
  7. zazouse

    zazouse Crowing

    Sep 7, 2009
    Southeast texas
    I bet she will be fine.

    She is just going to need some special care for a while.

    Bart was very alert and eating well, just could not walk, i kept him on pine shavings to keep him comfortable. he did start to look kinda shabby because he could not preen or dustbath himself.

    He's a great daddy roo to all the baby chicks,ducks and guineas.

    I understand about suffering, i have had to put down allot of animals of all kinds here on our farm over the last 30 years , it's just something you learn to do, but it is never easy for me.

    I'll be watching for her progress. [​IMG]
  8. MotherJean

    MotherJean Songster

    Pretty much the only day old chicks that are vaccinated for Marek's will be the one's you order directly from the hatchery and pay a little extra for the cost of vaccination. Feed store chicks are not routinely vaccinated for Marek's, and yet, an amazing number of feed store clerks will swear those chicks are vaccinated. Had that happen to me with the last batch of chicks so to double check, I called the hatchery directly and asked. I was told that most hatcheries vaccinate and monitor their breeders for a variety of diseases as part of their National Poultry Improvement Program (NPIP) certification. But, they said, they do not vaccinate chicks sent to feed stores or to individuals on special order unless vaccination is requested and paid for. Unless you have some sort of paperwork showing that your chick was vaccinated for Marek's, I think you should assume that she was not.

    ETA: I recently read that the Marek's vaccination is about 90% effective.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2010
  9. joetzu

    joetzu Chirping

    Aug 2, 2009
    We have a bird that has very similar symptoms. We have isolated it and it is eating and drinking, but not moving. Does not seem to be suffering at all. Since this is a meat bird and will be ready for heaven in 4-5 weeks time my question is: Is it safe to consume a bird that has had this condition ? Also, these birds (25) were purchased form a mail order hatchery and were it typical to have one catch Marek's anyway ?
  10. jarcoo0153

    jarcoo0153 Songster

    Mar 13, 2010
    Levelland, Texas
    One of my naked necks did the same thing last summer. The only thing that I could figure out was that the mouse she ate the day before had been poisoned. She never got over the paralysis so we put her down. [​IMG]

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