Gargantuan strain of virus found in pet chickens in the Netherlands

Mutant viruses studied cause disease in chickens that have acted like herpes virus – so if your pet has the ‘same symptom’ it could also be infected Genetic tests on pet birds and chickens…

Gargantuan strain of virus found in pet chickens in the Netherlands

Mutant viruses studied cause disease in chickens that have acted like herpes virus – so if your pet has the ‘same symptom’ it could also be infected

Genetic tests on pet birds and chickens at a poultry farm and identified a deadly virus that has affected many of the birds’ relatives.

Male chickens and ducks at the Royal Maine Coon View Poultry Farm in Kent found a mutation in the genetic code of the virus that no other animals in the Netherlands have received. It has in some cases caused neurological and respiratory infections.

Within a week of the mutation, chick chicks at the farm with the mutation were found to have high levels of COVID-19, a secondary virus that is produced by the virus and has been shown to transmit to animals if its membrane is cracked or rubbed.

A genetic testing programme involving more than 2,000 chickens showed the mutation.

Animal stem cells

Inderjeet Singh-Gupta, senior technical advisor of the British Poultry Council, said: “The mutation of the virus has created a secondary virus that has spread throughout the flock, similar to the strain that has been found in wild and domestic cattle in the Netherlands.

“The fact that COVID-19 has now been found in poultry, suggests it could be the main driver of the virus’s behaviour.”

CCTV footage taken from inside the farm building in April last year showed a uniform round of diseased chicken chicks. When tested the 14,432 chicken eggs in these “intact” eggs tested positive for COVID-19.

The disease affected a wider range of birds than was previously thought. Eggs from 88 homes, which were moved between roosts and coops had the mutation. Eggs from 4,677 wild fowl at a landfill site in Britschopf at Leipzig, 15 miles from the Poultry Farm, were also shown to be carrying the mutation.

Researchers from the Dutch National Institute for Health and Welfare and the University of Utrecht detected the mutation on 38 types of chicken, 13 types of duck and 52 types of wild fowl in the flock. These were other birds known to have been affected by the virus in the Netherlands.

The discovery underlines the danger from domestic birds getting infected with the mutation which is passed through an open eye membrane.

Singh-Gupta said: “Females in the flock will not be infected by this mutation, as they have separate immune systems. Since the mutation appears to be virulent and low-birthweight, this change in the virus may have wider implications for the poultry industry.

“We now need to determine what the long-term effect of this mutation is on animal health and welfare, and then make future decisions about vaccination and culling.”

Vaccination was suggested as the first option. Singh-Gupta said the farm was looking to carry out operations with a higher probability of carrying the mutation in future.

Coastal birds are often thought to be the most vulnerable to exposure to viruses, as they can be closer to bodies of water where they can come into contact with viruses like gastro-intestinal flus and parasite.

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