Fowl cholera cause of chicken deaths, says Ministry

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries yesterday said the signs of illness in chickens at Safa'atoa, Lefaga that led to their death points to the contagious disease Fowl Cholera.

But people do not need to be afraid as the disease cannot spread from chickens to humans, though it is best to avoid eating infected chicken, added the Ministry. 

Staff working in the animal health section, within the Ministry’s Animal Production and Health Division, told the Samoa Observer that the signs of the dead chicken is highly consistent with a disease called Fowl Cholera.

They visited the family on Monday, which initially raised their concerns through this newspaper last week after loosing seven chickens, and administered antibiotic treatment for the remaining chickens.

“We also brought one of their terminally ill chickens back to the clinic with us for humane euthanasia and post-mortem to try and determine the cause of the deaths.

"The post-mortem results were inconclusive but the history of signs of illness within the flock are highly consistent with a disease called Fowl cholera,” Ministry spokesperson said.

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“This disease is the most common cause of sudden mass death in chickens in Samoa and many surrounding Pacific Islands as per our experience stretching back many years from many post-mortems."

“It is caused by a bacteria that attacks the blood of the animal, causing problems in its organs and sometimes skin. The symptoms are weakness, not eating, ruffled feathers, diarrhea and eventually death."

“A typical cycle of this disease through a flock starts with either one or two animals showing signs of illness, followed by sudden death in several birds each day for up to a week or more. This disease can kill 90 per cent of a flock and is very contagious, meaning it easily spreads between chickens,” added the Ministry.

According to the Ministry, the bacteria can live in the soil, in dead birds and on contaminated clothes and equipment. But it can be easily killed with household disinfectants and sunlight. 

“That is why we often see it occurring in backyard flocks during the wet season, as there is not enough sun to keep the bacteria at low levels in the environment, and it is much more easily spread from property to property by water.”

Treatment for sick chicken is available, added the Ministry, but the affected flock should be visited first to confirm the diagnosis and determine the best form of treatment.

“It is important for the public to note that it is not a disease that can affect humans and therefore there is no need to worry about people getting sick."

“However, we do advise the public not to eat dead or sick-birds, as the illness predisposes their carcasses to the growth of other food-borne organisms that may affect the consumer’s health. We do encourage normal hygienic practices like washing your hands after touching your sick animals so that you don’t spread it to the rest of your flock,” they added. 

The staff at the Ministry appealed to the public to call them on telephone 21052 (Upolu) or 51050 (Savai’i) if they experience similar problems with their chicken flock and to report any deaths of birds — both wild and domesticated.

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