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Duck Viral Hepatitis

Extracted From:
A Pocket Guide to
Poultry Health
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By Paul McMullin
© 2004
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A viral disease of ducks occurring worldwide and previously a scheduled disease in UK. Morbidity is around 100% and mortality 0-95%.

The disease is transmitted by infected ducks and other waterfowl and spreads rapidly, recovered birds carrying the virus for 8 weeks. The infective agent, a picornavirus may also survive for ten weeks in brooders and five weeks in faeces. A different picornavirus causes a similar condition in North America.


  • Sudden death.
  • Death in good condition.
  • Depression.
  • Fall on side, paddling of legs, arching of back, rapid deterioration and death, often in opisthotonus.

Post-mortem lesions

  • Liver swollen.
  • Punctate/diffuse haemorrhages.
  • Kidneys and spleen swollen.
  • Microscopically - focal necrosis, bile duct proliferation and inflammation.


History, lesions, SN serology, isolation in CE (causes stunting of 9 day embryo).

Differentiate from Duck plague (viral enteritis), Duck septicaemia (anatipestifer), coccidiosis, Newcastle disease, Influenza and a 'Type II Variant' hepatitis caused by Astrovirus.


Antiserum, 0.5 ml serum of recovered birds given intramuscularly.


Vaccination and/or antiserum, breeder vaccination. Live, only slightly attenuated vaccine is applied at day old by foot web stab and may be repeated in breeding birds to provide maternal immunity.

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