Can Birds Recover From Avian Pox? | Fowl Pox in Chickens and Turkeys

Avian Pox in Birds

Avian pox is a worldwide common viral infection of chickens and turkeys. Most bird species are believed to be susceptible to fowl pox. About 230 species of wild and domestic birds have been reported with this disease. There is no treatment option available for fowl pox but some supportive measures can help us to combat this disease to some extent.

If your birds are infected with Avian pox then you are in the right place. Here we will give you a complete guide on fowl pox. This article will help you a lot if you are really serious about your bird’s health status. So let’s get into the detail.

What is Avian Pox?

A slow-spreading viral infection of chickens, turkeys, and some wild species of birds. Fowl pox is characterized by nodular lesions on unfeathered skin ( face, comb, wattles, legs, etc ) or on the mucous membrane of the buccal cavity. Avian pox virus is responsible for this disease that comes in 3 different strains. Gross lesions and some clinical signs are the major diagnostic factor for Avian pox.

Other names: Bird Pox, Contagious Epithelioma, Avian Diphtheria, Poxvirus Avium, Fowlpox

Cause of Avian Pox in Birds:

The cause of avian pox is the Avian pox virus (APV). There are three different strains of this virus. These are:

  1. Fowl pox virus (FPV: It affects chickens and turkeys)
  2. Pigeon pox virus (PPV: It affects pigeons)
  3. Canary pox virus (CPV: It affects different wildlife species)

It is important to note that each virus strain can only cause disease within certain species of birds. For example, FPV can’t cause fowlpox in pigeons and PPV can’t cause fowlpox in chickens or turkeys.

Types of Avian Pox in Chickens:

There are two different types of Avian Pox in Chickens. These forms are Dry form and wet form. Let’s see what are these forms in detail.

1- Dry or Cutaneous Avian Pox

Dry or Cutaneous Avian pox is a more common type than wet form in chickens. Lesions in dry form are initially small yellowish like which later become large dark brown scabs. These lesions are on such skin areas where there are no feathers.

These scabs usually last for 2-4 weeks after which they will loosen and drop off on their own. These dry dark brown scabs contain the poxvirus and are highly infectious to other flocks of chickens.

As I mentioned earlier, lesions are on unfeathered skin. So, if lesions are on the eyes then the obvious clinical signs are

  • Redness in eyes
  • Swelling of eyelids
  • Ulcerative lesions along the edges of eyelids

All these signs lead to irritation in chickens that should be treated as soon as possible to avoid deadly consequences.

2- Wet or Diphtheritic Fowl Pox

Wet or Diphtheric avian pox causes high mortality in chickens. Initial signs are lesions that develop as white small nodules within the oropharynx which later merge to form yellowish plaques. The signs are:

  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Some respiratory difficulties-

All these clinical signs may be mild to severe depending upon the virulence factor of the viral strain.

How is Pox virus Transmitted?

There are two ways of pox virus transmission. Either through a mosquito or through an infected bird. You might be wondering how mosquito? Yes, let’s see, if a mosquito bites an infected bird then it is able to keep the virus in its salivary gland for up to 8 weeks. When this mosquito bites another bird, it is capable of transferring this pox virus into a healthy bird.

Infact one mosquito can infect several birds after feeding on a single infected bird. This is how the pox virus transmits between birds. Another possible way is between birds themselves.

For example, If a chicken is infected with poxvirus then it can transmit this virus to other flock members by pecking, fighting, or by other behaviors.

As I mentioned earlier, the virus remains viable in dry scabs for months or years. So it can be transmitted between birds if birds intake these scabs.

Check out how to prevent Mareks Disease Easily

Symptoms of Avian Pox in Birds:

The symptoms of avian pox in chickens, turkeys, and other birds are:

  • Swelling of eyelids
  • Yellowish discharge from eyes
  • Lesions on unfeathered skin
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
Avian pox
Lesions on Unfeathered Skin
Avian pox
Swelling of Eyelids
Avian Pox
Lesions in oropharynx

How to Diagnose Avian Pox in Birds:

A well-renowned pathologist said,

Forget the Treatment, Diagnosis is everything

Usually, in every disease, the diagnostic protocols revolve around clinical signs and symptoms and further confirmation by laboratory tests. In the same way, to diagnose avian pox in birds, you have to check the following mentioned things:

  1. Clinical signs and symptoms
  2. Gross lesions on unfeathered skins
  3. Fluorescent antibody and immunohistochemical methods for cytoplasmic inclusion bodies
  4. PCR to amplify genomic DNA sequences of pox virus

Treatment of Fowl Pox :

There is no treatment for Avian or fowl pox, but some supportive measures can help you a lot in combating the pox virus. These supportive measures are:

First of all, is the vaccination, Vaccination is the best way to control the disease and may limit spread within actively infected flocks.

Secondly, adopt supportive care techniques. These techniques are: Isolate the infected bird from the rest of the flock and call your veterinarian if you see some lesions on unfeathered skin including eyes.

For Dry or cutaneous Form

It is important to keep pox scabs clean and dry. Apply silver nitrate, iodine, or 1-2% saline solution directly to the lesion to help keep it clean. Once scabs have formed, they should not be physically removed. Using a hot or cold compress soaked in baby shampoo may be beneficial to press up against scabs to help them soften.

For Eye lesions

Early lesions should be flushed with dilute antiseptic or 1-2% saline solution.


Antibiotics and Vitamin supplements help a lot. Antibiotics help to prevent secondary bacterial infections. Vitamins are given as an adjunctive therapy help to aid in healing, 2000 U/kg PO, IM.

Best Trusted Products used by Veterinary Doctors in Avian Pox

Prevention and Control of Avian Pox:

If you adopt the below mentioned preventive measures then it will keep your bird flock free from Avian Pox.

  • Minimize the risk of mosquitoes by eliminating stagnant water sources, incorporating mosquito traps near chicken coops, utilize mosquito-proof netting, and/or apply insecticidal spray (specifically made to deter mosquitoes).
  • Vaccinate your birds properly. When to vaccinate?
    • For vaccination, wing-web stick method is best.
    • Vaccinate your chicks at the age of 12-16 weeks.
    • Vaccinate birds 2 months before egg production
    • 1-2 months before mosquito season

FAQs about Fowl Pox or Avian Pox Disease:

There are some questions that are frequently asked by people regarding pox disease in birds. I am going to answer all these questions here to avoid any confusion. If your question is not here then you can let me know in the comment section.

Can avian pox spread to humans?

No, there is no zoonotic risk of avian pox.

Can fowl pox spread to dogs?

No, fowlpox cannot be transmitted to dogs, cats, and humans.

What do you do if you see a bird with avian pox?

Simply if you see the gross lesions on unfeathered skin then call the vet. there is no treatment but some supportive measures can help you a lot in combating the pox virus.

Can chicken get fowl pox twice?

Once the fowlpox has fully cleared, infected birds get partial immunity from the same viral strain (just like humans do). They usually won’t get fowlpox again, but if they do, then it will be a rare case.


Avian pox is a disease of chickens, turkeys, and other birds. No treatment is available but vaccines and other supportive measures can help to control this disease.

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