Infectious Laryngotracheitis in Manitoba

Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT) is a severe and very contagious viral herpes infection that affects chickens and pheasants. It is not unusual to detect a couple of ILT cases per year in Manitoba.

What should I watch for in my flock?

• difficulty breathing, gasping or coughing,
• watery eyes,
• nasal discharge,
• wheezing,
• drop in egg production, or
• sudden death
 
Some cases can be mild, however ILT often causes severe mortality and morbidity. Clinical signs are usually observed five to 12 days after exposure and usually subside within two weeks.  However, some birds will be ILT carriers for extended periods and then become the source of infection for more susceptible birds. The dormant virus can easily be reactivated in stressful conditions.

How is ILT spread?

 
ILT is spread primarily through direct contact between poultry, especially when small numbers of birds are frequently traded between flocks. ILT can also be spread indirectly through equipment, boots, clothing, birds eating contaminated litter, transporting birds in contaminated crates and between sites by pests like rodents.

How can I protect my small flock from ILT?


The best defense for your small flock is to avoid introducing birds from flocks of unknown health status.  This is the most important biosecurity practice that can be implemented.  Biosecurity is a set of measures or procedures intended to prevent the introduction of pest and diseases to your flock and to prevent spreading any disease from your flock to others. 

Owners of small flocks may consider vaccinating for ILT.  However, there are certain vaccines that may be a greater risk for your flock. Consult your veterinarian to ensure the right vaccine is used in your flock. 
 
The Cheif Veterinary Office (CVO) recommends:
 
• purchasing birds only from known sources with disease-free status;
• keeping new birds separate from the existing flock for at least 21 days;
• monitoring new birds through this quarantine period for any signs of sickness;
• properly vaccinating any new birds in consultation with your veterinarian;
• cleaning houses and coops properly, with enough downtime between uses – preferably seven to 14 days;
• always using clean and disinfected transport crates;
• disposing of dead birds and farm waste properly and in accordance with municipal bylaws;
• limiting the flock’s contact with visitors, particularly those who have contact with other poultry flocks;
• having  a designated visitor’s parking as far away as possible from your poultry flock;
• providing clean booties/footwear to anyone who MUST enter your farm;
• having clean coveralls, disposable gloves, hairnets, hand sanitizer and a wash station readily available;
• avoiding visits to other poultry farms unless necessary, and following good biosecurity practices if visits occur;
• controlling movement of people, vehicles, and equipments on-farm through signage;
• keeping good records for all sales and purchases in case you must contact buyers or sellers about disease transmission issues; and
• sharing this information to other small flock producers, customers, visitors, farm help, and family members.

 

What should I do if I think my flock has ILT?

 
 ILT is a reportable disease in Manitoba.  Contact your veterinarian immediately if your birds are sick and show symptoms of ILT. Small flock producers should work with their veterinarian, who can get diagnostic support from the CVO and Veterinary Diagnostic Services (VDS).

The symptoms of ILT are also common among other reportable diseases like avian influenza.  This is why it’s important to continually monitor for and report potential diseases that pose a risk to poultry health.  Reporting early can significantly limit the effect of a disease on the health of your flock and the flocks located close to you.

If you have any questions about ILT, or any other reportable disease, please contact the CVO or call 204-945-7684.