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ThePoultrySite Quick Disease Guide

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Contents of Quick Disease Guide

PEMS and Spiking Mortality of Turkeys

Extracted From:
A Pocket Guide to
Poultry Health
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By Paul McMullin
© 2004
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Poult Enteritis and Mortality Syndrome (PEMS) was first identified in high density turkey producing areas of the South Eastern USA in 1991. It is an infectious and transmissible cause of sudden increases in mortality in turkeys between 7 and 28 days of age. A less acute form of the disease appears to produce more of a lingering mortality. In both cases mortality can be high and can be associated with a marked depression in growth. A range of viruses have been isolated from affected flocks. To replicate the condition in full it appears to be necessary to include bacteria in the inoculum. This syndrome is clearly distinguished from typical viral enteritis in young turkeys because of the high mortality and severe growth depression.


  • Initial hyperactivity and increased vocalisation.
  • Increased water consumption.
  • Picking at feed, eating litter.
  • Reduced feed consumption and growth.
  • Increasing weakness, huddling, seeking heat.
  • Droppings watery, pale brown.
  • Wet litter.
  • Weight loss.

Post-mortem lesions

  • Dehydration.
  • Muscle atrophy.
  • Emaciation.
  • Liquid intestinal contents.
  • Caseous cores in bursae (late in the process).


Signs, lesions.


A range of antibiotics and arsenicals have been used to control the bacterial component of this condition. Fluoroquinolone antimicrobials appear to be especially effective. A highly digestible diet with fat at 7.5-8% will encourage feed intake and recovery, multivitamins and milk replacer products are helpful for nutritional support in the acute phase.


Biosecurity to reduce the introduction of new infections into brooding facilities. All-in/all-out production. Effective terminal disinfection. Good quality diets of a suitable form - mash and poor quality crumbles increase risk.

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