Disease: Anatid herpesvirus 1 (duck plague, duck viral enteritis)

This page provides general information about  this condition; reveal the text by clicking on  the green headers. Press releases, results from DWHC investigations as well as other useful documents and relevant literature can be found at the bottom of the page.


Duck plague also known as duck viral enteritis (DVE), is a highly infectious disease of ducks, geese and swans (Anatidae) caused by infection with anatid herpes virus-1 (DVE virus) a member of the Alphaherpesvirinae, of the family Herpesviridae.

Different strains of DVE virus vary in their disease-causing ability (pathogenicity). The time between infection and the development of signs varies from 3 to 7 days. After infection, the virus replicates in the lining cells of the gastro-intestinal tract, predominantly in the oesophagus before spreading to other parts of the body including the tissues of the immune system (bursa of fabricius, spleen and thymus) and the liver. Death typically occurs around 1 to 5 days after the first clinical signs.

Susceptible species

This virus can infect members of the Anatidae, i.e. ducks, swans and geese. Muscovy ducks are particularly sensitive to this disease.

Signs in animals

Clinical signs vary depending on the species, health (immune) status, age and sex of the infected bird as well as the pathogenicity of the strain of virus. In addition to general malaise, the range of signs associated with infection with DVE virus includes light-sensitivity +/- closed eyes, nasal discharge, increased thirst, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and weakness and ataxia, often characterised by birds supporting themselves with their wings.

Infection of animals

DVE is typically transmitted via direct contact with infected birds or indirectly via contaminated water or grass. In addition, vertical transmission (i.e. from female bird to egg) has been reported to occur in Muscovy, Peking Ducks and Mallard ducks.

Preventative measures

Whilst duck plague does not pose a threat to other birds or mammals (including humans), it is a notifiable disease in some countries including The Netherlands. There is no proven treatment protocol for an outbreak and the most important action is to prevent the spread of the disease to other waterfowl populations in the area. As overcrowding can contribute to virus outbreaks it is recommended NOT to feed wild ducks, geese and swans. Vaccines are available and may be used to protect domestic waterfowl.

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