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Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagles • View topic - WCV Q & A - Follow-up to May 30 Special Event

Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagles

NESTI (Norfolk Eagle Support Team International)
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 8:21 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:50 pm
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Location: Shenandoah Valley
03 Jun 2008

* These are questions that were sent to Wildlife Center of Virginia with answers from either Ed Clark or his veterinary staff. There were a number of questions that were not touched upon in the live WVEC chat event on Fri., May 30, that are answered here in this document.

Question: What is AP and is it contracted and spread to other birds and is it common in Virginia?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: Virus in the family Poxviradae. Contracted through either 1) a combination of direct transmission from an infected bird + a break in the skin integrity or 2) Biting insects such as mosquitoes that have previously come into contact with an infected bird. 3) Direct contact between infected and susceptible or contaminated object. 4) Aerosol transmission although this is rare and mostly occurs in confined spaces such as aviaries. Two forms of Pox exist clinically; dry pox and wet pox. Dry Pox is by far more common in raptor species and clinical signs consist of discrete wart-like-lesions that proliferate on the skin, mostly in unfeathered areas on the feet and legs, cere and around the eyes. The wet form of pox is not as common consists of moist necrotic lesions on the mucous membranes of the mouth and upper respiratory tract. A third systemic form exists but has rarely been reported in birds.

Sandi: Can birds spread to or contract viral pox's from other species of animals (squirrels in nest)?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: Pox viruses are fairly species specific. A form of pox exists in squirrels, and groundhogs but are limited to those species and cannot be transmitted to birds. With the bird kingdom, there are several strains that are molecularly distinct from each other and they appear to be host adapted. Presently, the list consists of fowlpox, turkeypox, canarypox, pigeonpox, quailpox, sparrowpox, starlingpox, juncopox, psittinepox, peacockpox, penguinpox, mynahpox, and albatross pox. These viruses do better when transferred between host members of the same family, however, cross-infection has been known to occur.

jwnix: How contagious is this disease?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: The virus is actually incredibly resistant to environmental factors. It is especially resistant to drying out and can survive on perches and in dried scabs for months to years. In these cases, any susceptible bird frequenting these areas may become infected.

Sandi: Is it possible to test the first two eggs removed from the nest for AP and would that prove the parents are carriers?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: Eggs have never been shown to harbour the virus and therefore testing would give no information on the status of the parents. see previous comment on transmission.

Anthony/Mary: Could the eaglet have acquired AP by eating an infected bird?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: Yes, If the bird was a carrier of a strain that could infect eagles, virus could potentially enter breaks in the mucosa within and around the beak and infect the bird. However, although possible, would be fairly rare.

Bev: If the baby got AP from something other than the parents, couldn't he have passed on to them?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: This is certainly possible given the various forms of transmission (see above details). Once a bird has been infected with avian pox, it develops lifetime immunity to that strain. Cross-immunization for different strains of pox virus has been demonstrated in some bird species. Therefore, if the parents had previously had this strain they would be resistant to the chicks pox.

Marilyn: Can household pets get AP if we take their cages outside on occasion during the warmer weather?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: No. Avian pox is bird specific...even species specific in some cases. Pet mammals are not at risk.

Mary: Is there a possibility that the parents will get AP from the "beak" feedings?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: See above comments to Bev.

Sandi: Given the aggressiveness of this tumor is this possibly a new strain of AP or was it more aggressive because the eaglet was immunocompromised?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: The biopsy performed by SCWDS was able to confirm AP, however, the exact strain was not typed out as this takes much longer to do and traditionally has no bearing on the treatment plan. That said, in our collective experience, we have never seen pox take on this form IN THIS

LOCATION. AP often has lesions that resemble the mass on this eaglet, however, they almost always come from the featherless regions of the skin and not the keratin region of the beak itself. This said, the initial lesion may have been on the transmission zone between the cere (fleshy area around the nostrils) and the beak - in the same region of the beak's growth plate. If the AP invaded the growth plate it may result it may result in the lesions we are seeing. The agressive nature could also be due to immunosuppression, however, based on our initial blood work, the number of white blood cells is inconsistent with this theory.

Sandi: Is the nest considered "contaminated" and if so does the nest have to be destroyed or will the length of time the nest is unoccupied solve the problem?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: Good questions. Based on the resistant nature of the virus to withstand environmental conditions (see above comment), the potential for the virus to survive to the nest year and re-infect another chick does exist, however, to the best of my knowledge, no one has demonstrated this occurance. As the most common form of transmission is through insect bites, the nest is likely not a significant risk.

Dana: AP occurs in two forms, cutaneous (dry) and diptheric (wet). Do we know which form he has and which of the forms is harder to handle?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: The most common form in raptors is the "dry" form. In a recent publication reviewing avian pox, 26/32 cases were dry and found on the feet and legs, 6/32 cases were dry and found on the face and head, and 1/33 reported cases was the wet form in the oral cavity. In both cases, the most common and usually most successful treatment is through supportive care and allowing the immune system to "take care of things". However, in the wet/diptheric form, lesions may block the trachea, thus preventing the bird from breathing.

Dana: Will the nest need to be bleached so that the disease will not spread?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: See above comments from Sandy. If a disinfectant is going to be used, I'd try something more environmentally friendly as A LOT of disinfectant would have to be used. In reality, the risk of obtaining pox from virus still present in the nest is very minimal although to my knowledge, no research has ever been performed on this subject in the wild on real nests.

Dana: I read it takes 2-4 weeks for the lesions to dry and heal...Does it produce lesions for a certain amt of time or does each new leasion produce new lesions dragging it out indefintely?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: Most common AP presentations occur all at once and regress at the same time. The body's immune system needs time to develop and produce defenses but once they're in place, lifelong immunity ensures, Immunity is mostly cell mediated (certain white blood cell lines) however, antibodies do play a role.

Tarheel: How many cases of AP in bald eagles has the Center treated and what is your success rate?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: In my experience working at this Center, this is my third case in a Bald Eagle. The first case had minor lesions around the beak which resolved in approximately three weeks, the second eagle was severely infected to the extent the eyes were swollen shut and the bird could not breathe out of its nostrils (this bird was euthanized) and this newest eaglet is the third. It is quite likely that other cases have come in over the years, however, I cannot comment on the success rate.

Ann: If avian pox is a self limiting virus how long before it normally runs its course, and how long would you expect this growth to continue to continue growing?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: The duration of clinical signs depends on the species affected, strain of pox virus, and immunological status of the infected bird. Some birds have recovered in as early as 2-3 weeks whereas in others, the lesions continue to spread until it blinds the birds and they can no longer see to find food. The incubation period (time from first entry into the bird until the onset of clinical signs) also varies; 4-10 days in chickens, turkeys, and pigeons and up to 150 days in some wild bird species.

Question: What is the typical treatment for this disease, drugs, goal of surgery, length of rehab, cost of treatment
Wildlife Center of Virginia: The typical treat for AP is supportive care. This consists of cleaning the lesion (many topical ointments have been tried) in order to prevent secondary bacterial infections; treating existing secondary infections with an appropriate antibiotic, feeding, housing, keeping the animal warrm if necessary, Our own treatment also includes administering Echinacea in order to increase the absolute number of natural killer cells and macrophages - both cells that body uses to fight viruses. In addition, we are starting the bird on a drug called Interferon Alfa-2-A, which 1) modulates the immune system to make it more affective in general, 2) is a known antiviral agent, and 3) is antiproliferative - affectively targeting rapidly growing cells (ie tumors). Note that there are no contraindications to use this drug in growing animals. In most cases of AP, surgical excision of the lesions is contraindicated as the lesions almost always grow back. The reason we're considering surgery in this case, is due to the aggressive nature of the mass and the amount of underlying damage it is doing to the underlying bone structure. We hope to prevent the further spread to this mass by debulking and managing the remnants. Length of rehab=hopefully as short as possible. Cost of treatment - please see the attached costs document

Vicki: If there is surgery to remove the growth, what are the chances he could be fitted with a prosthetic beak?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: Prosthetic beaks are tricky. To the best of my knowledge, there have only been two attempted (Vancouver Island and Idaho), and only one has been successful (Vancouver Island) We will continue to keep this option in our back pocket, however, our goal is to have the bird regenerate its own beak. We won't know the full extent of bone loss until after the surgery is complete.

Vicki: If he is to ever be released, we would like for him to come back to the gardens. Can that be arranged?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: Our policy here at WCV is that if an animal can be released, we try to return it to the county of origin providing there is appropriate habitat.

Sandi: Given the amount of human contact the eaglet will experience during his treatments/surgery/rehab is it realistic to expect that he can ever be released back into the wild?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: We are trying our best to not habituate the eaglt - especially during the feeding process. To that end, we are currently trying to obtain a hand feeding puppet to further prevent human exposure. The bird is currently passed the phase on imprinting. As soon as we can, we'll be placing the eagle with or in a cage next to another Bald Eagle so socialization can occur. Obviously, we'll have to make sure the bird is no longer infectious (lack of clinical signs).

Dana: Can his skin lesions be coated with something to prevent contamination during treatment?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: Currently we are wiping the lesion daily with iodine which has been shown to reduce the size of the lesion in other species.

Lesley: If the eaglet should recover enough to be released back into the wild, will it be too imprinted on humans after all its treatments?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: see Sandi's question above.

Ann: Has surgical intervention been scheduled? If so, when?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: We have yet to schedule surgery for the eagle however we are actively looking for an appropriate surgeon. Although the veterinary staff at WCV performs surgeries on a weekly basis, we are hoping to enlist the experience of a Board Certified Avain Clinician in order to optimize the outcome for this patient. We have several people in mind and as soon as schedules can be arranged, the surgery will proceed.

Ann: Can the eaglet's beak be surgically realigned, if necessary, during surgery after the removal of the growth?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: Good question. We are currently looking into various brace system and need to consult with avian surgeons in order to evaluate their merits.

Judy: Is the fact that the eaglet is in a period of rapid growth making the growth on his beak grow faster (hormones)?
Wildlife Center of Virginia: This may be possible however, I suspect that the naive nature of the bird's immune system likely has more to do with the rapid growth.

* note: We appreciate Sandi's follow up email with WCV and their response in providing these additional answers.

For the animals shall not be measured by man ~ They are not our brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth ~ Henry Beston

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