Polyomavirus Vaccine

  • Polyomavirus is a virus that infects caged birds, especially those younger than 5 months.
  • Signs include sudden death, loss of appetite, bleeding under the skin, and feather abnormalities.
  • Birds cannot transmit this disease to their owners.
  • The polyomavirus vaccine can help prevent the spread of this virus within an aviary (a place for keeping birds) or among birds that are exposed to birds with an unknown vaccination status.
  • Bird owners should consult their veterinarians about the risks and benefits of the vaccine.

What Is Polyomavirus?

Avian polyomavirus is a virus that primarily infects young, caged birds. While birds younger than 5 months are most susceptible to infection, it’s possible for adult birds to become infected as well. Older birds that are infected may survive but shed the virus in feather dander and droppings, exposing other birds to infection. Birds that are most vulnerable include:

  • Macaws
  • Budgerigars
  • Conures
  • Lovebirds
  • Eclectus parrots
  • Ring-necked parrots
  • Caciques

What Are the Signs of Polyomavirus?

Some infected birds may appear healthy before experiencing sudden death. Other birds may have loss of appetite, delayed crop emptying, bleeding under the skin, abdominal distention, and feather abnormalities.

How Is Polyomavirus Diagnosed and Treated?

Specific laboratory testing can identify polyomavirus in certain tissues and in feces. Blood tests can also detect antibodies to the virus in birds that have been exposed. These birds can serve as a source of infection for other birds.

Besides supportive care to help relieve clinical signs, there is no effective treatment for polyomavirus infection. Young birds that become infected may die from the disease.

What Is the Polyomavirus Vaccine?

The polyomavirus vaccine can help prevent birds from contracting the infection. Because the disease tends to infect younger birds, it is especially important for bird breeders to vaccinate breeding adults and young birds. People buying birds from breeders or pet shops should ask for a certificate of vaccination.

Because there are risks and benefits to any vaccine, bird owners should consult their veterinarians about the polyomavirus vaccine. Vaccination may be recommended for birds that are exposed to birds with an unknown disease status at bird shows, veterinary clinics, and pet stores.

How Can the Disease Be Prevented?

Owners should have new birds checked by a veterinarian before exposing other birds in the household to new birds. After handling birds at pet stores, bird owners should change their clothes and disinfect their hands before touching their own birds. Home visits from friends with unvaccinated birds should be discouraged.