Two Viruses Present in NH Wild Turkeys

Updated: April 19, 2013

turkey pair drawing

Two viruses affecting the wild turkey population are now present in New Hampshire and the Northeastern U.S.  In 2011 and 2012, sick turkeys were observed and specimens collected and sent to state veterinary labs in New Hampshire and other New England states, as well as New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In New Hampshire, six turkey specimens sent for analysis at the veterinary lab at the University of New Hampshire in Durham in October of 2012 were diagnosed as having both the LPDV and avian pox viruses: 

  • Avian Pox Virus has been present in southern U.S. states for decades.
  • Lymphoproliferative Disease Virus (LPDV) is a more recent arrival that has been detected in wild turkeys in the U.S. only during the past few years.

The first two turkeys were collected in North Haverhill, N.H., in October 2011. In 2012, a scattering of turkeys with suspected virus were seen or collected from 21 towns throughout New Hampshire. During the 2012 fall hunting season, 1,000+ turkeys were registered in New Hampshire. Turkey registration forms include a section where any abnormalities are to be recorded. Forms from seven towns reported turkeys with the avian pox lesions.

Not Harmful to Humans
There are no known human health implications associated with LPDV and avian pox viruses.     

Monitoring Efforts Underway

Biologists in New Hampshire are gathering evidence to monitor the status of these viruses in our turkeys. As part of this effort, biologists will be present at 10-12 turkey registration stations early in the 2013 spring gobbler season and will ask hunters to donate a 4-inch leg bone section above the spur up to the leg joint. The goal is to collect 50 turkey leg bone samples (5 from each of the state's 10 counties). These samples will be sent to the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease laboratory in Georgia, where the bone marrow will be analyzed to help determine the prevalence of theses viruses in our wild turkey population. Hunters are urged to cooperate with this study. 

Virus Symptoms

How will these viruses affect our turkeys?
The potential impact of LPDV and avian pox on wild turkeys in New Hampshire and other states is currently unknown. 

The symptoms the birds experience are similar for both viruses. Turkeys may exhibit lesions or develop wart-like, yellow, pussy protuberances around the neck/head area. The growths may accumulate around the eyes, making it difficult for the turkey to see (hence becoming more vulnerable to predators). The growths may also get into the throat, making it more difficult for the bird to ingest food. Some of the turkeys picked up in 2012 had lost considerable weight; some were just one-third or more of normal weight. In this weakened condition, turkeys can become relatively easy for predators to catch.

About Avian Pox

Avian pox is an infectious viral disease of numerous bird species. The old term "fowl pox" is used when it appears in domestic turkeys and chickens. This virus does not appear to be one of the more lethal diseases; if it were, marked turkey die-offs would have occurred in the past in southern states where the virus is more established. Among wild turkeys, mosquitoes are likely the most important transmission route. The wet year of 2011 in New Hampshire, just before the virus was detected here, was notable for numerous hatches of mosquitoes. The avian pox virus is not related to the so-called "bird flu" viruses.

About LPDV

LPDV is a fairly new virus for the United States. The first case was reported in the U.S. in 2009, and it is now present in New England. Previously, LPDV had been reported in domestic turkeys in the United Kingdom and the Middle East. Head/neck lesions are symptomatic of both viruses; however LPDV often also causes lumpy growths on the toes of the turkey’s feet.

Resources

Ted Walski, N.H. Fish and Game Turkey Biologist – 603-352-9669

Anyone who observes a sick turkey in New Hampshire at any time of year is encouraged to report it to one of N.H. Fish and Game's Regional Offices (Keene, Durham, New Hampton, Lancaster – see wildnh.com/Inside_FandG/regional_offices.htm)

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