Report Wild Turkey Viruses

Updated: April 24, 2014

turkey pair drawing

N.H. Fish and Game is monitoring for two viruses affecting wild turkeys, characterized primarily by wart-like growths on the head and upper neck area of the bird:

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

Hunters are being asked to report any observations of avian pox or LPDV on turkeys to Fish and Game at theodore.walski@wildlife.nh.gov or contact a Fish and Game regional office or the Wildlife Division at 603-271-2461.

There are no known human health implications associated with LPDV and avian pox viruses. The viruses are not harmful or transferable to humans.

Monitoring Efforts Underway

Fish and Game is continuing to collect observations and reports of symptomatic turkeys in New Hampshire. “I remain guardedly optimistic, because there are numerous turkey flocks, many of which are pox-free; in flocks that are affected, only one or two birds in the flock seem to have the pox lesions,”said Fish and Game Turkey Biologist Ted Walski in the spring of 2014.  He noted that there were just 26 sites in 18 towns where wild turkeys were observed with pox lesions during the 2014 Internet Winter Flock Survey, out of a total of 1,400 observations logged.

The first two affected turkeys were collected in North Haverhill, N.H., in October 2011. 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, some of turkey specimens sent for analysis were diagnosed as having both the LPDV and avian pox viruses. 

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. Affected turkeys may lose considerable weight. In this weakened condition, they 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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NH Fish and Game Dept.
11 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03301

603-271-3421
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