Polyoma in Birds

Polyoma is a virus that is very contagious and very dangerous among young birds. It is also certainly dangerous among adults and should not be ignored; however, it is much more likely to kill baby birds than it is to kill adults. Adults actually may be able to develop immunity to it.

The virus is not species specific and can infect any type of bird, making it quite common among captive birds worldwide. The virus is transmitted through direct contact between birds, feces, or contact with an environment that is not properly cleaned. The virus is resistant to extreme heat and cold, making it hardy in all kinds of environments. What should be noted is sometimes birds will play host to the virus, but show no symptoms, spreading the virus to any and all birds that come in contact with the bird or its surroundings. For this reason, proper hygiene should be practiced at all times, regardless of whether a bird is outwardly sick or not. Keep cages very clean and periodically use bleach on the cage bars and cage bottoms to kill any and all pathogens. When Polyoma is suspected or diagnosed, using bleach everyday to disinfect the cage and all non-porous items is recommended to prevent spread of the virus.

There is no known treatment for the virus. Diagnosis is performed from a blood sample or a swab from the cloaca. There is a vaccine available to help prevent the disease, but it is expensive and a booster shot must be given every year to keep up the immunity.
Polyoma virus was discovered in 1981 in Budgies and was then given the name Budgerigar Fledgling disease.

This virus attacks the birds vital organs, such as the liver or the kidneys. The body becomes unable to digest and use nutrients from the food and the bird will die from starvation and dehydration. The bird may start to appear thin, the feathers may start to look disheveled and dull, and infections of bacteria and fungus may show up as the immune system starts to shut down.

Since it is most common in baby birds, any chicks that die when there seems to be no cause, immediately take the body to be tested for disease. Clean the cage thoroughly and isolate any birds that had come in contact with the deceased chick. Most other birds that get it will show symptoms, such as a distended belly, weight loss, poor feather growth, bleeding under the skin, tremors, diarrhea and vomiting, and crop stasis (where the crop appears full and does not shrink and empty).

– Written by: Arianna Pleitez