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Nature of the disease
Duck Virus Enteritis (DVE) or duck plague is an acute disease of ducks caused by an herpesvirus and causing high mortality.
OIE, List B disease.
Susceptible species
Ducks, geese, swans.
DVE is present in parts of Northern America, Europe and Asia. In the Pacific Region the disease has been reported in Fiji. A similar infection has been recorded in wild geese in Australia.
Clinical signs
The incubation period lasts 3 to 7 days and is followed by sudden apparition of high and persistent mortality with a significant drop in egg production. Other clinical signs include:
  • Eye watering and pasted eye-lids,
  • Photophobia,
  • Polydypsia,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Ataxia,
  • Watery diarrhoea,
  • Nasal discharge.

In ducklings 2-7 weeks of age, losses may be lower than in older birds and the signs associated with DVE infection include dehydration, loss of weight, a blue coloration of the beaks and bloodstained vents. In chronically infected partially immune flocks, only occasional deaths occur.

Post-mortem findings
Post-mortem findings include petechia through the gastro-intestinal tract, sometimes associated with ulceration or sloughing of the mucosa.

Liver appears swollen, haemorrhagic with foci of necrosis.

In mature males, prolapse of the penis may occur while in mature females, haemorrhages may be observed in ovarian follicles.

Differential diagnosis
  • Pasteurella anatipestifera,
  • Duck virus hepatitis,
  • Fowl cholera,
  • Coccidiosis,
  • Mycotoxycosis
Specimens required for diagnosis
At post-mortem the virus may be isolated from specimen of liver, spleen kidneys and intestines. Specimen should be kept in neutral buffered formalin.

Serological tests are available but due to the short course of the disease they are not commonly used in practice.

The virus is shed in faeces and other discharges and it is transmitted by contact between birds or contaminated fomites. Recovered birds may be carriers and may shed the virus in faeces or on the surface of eggs over a period of years.
Risk of introduction
DVE could be introduced by importation of live birds from an infected country. Contamination of duck meat or duck products could occur but if such contaminated products were introduced transmission of the disease through that way is unlikely.

Wild anseriforms birds are a potential reservoir and can transmit the disease to domestic birds where they are in contact. However Pacific Islands

Control / vaccines
A live attenuated virus vaccine is available to control DVE in birds over 2 weeks of age. Vaccine virus is not thought to spread from vaccinated to unvaccinated stock.

If introduced the disease is best controlled by strict isloation of infected flocks.

  • Duck Viral Enteritis, In Merck Veterinary Manual, National Publishing Inc. Eight ed, 1998, Philadelphia, p. 1895-1896
  • GEERING WA, FORMAN AJ, NUNN MJ, Exotic Diseases of Animals, Aust Gov Publishing Service, Canberra, 1995, p.85-88
  • Office International des Epizooties, 2002