ERYSIPELAS of turkeys - ir. Erysipelas kills turkeys rapidly. It usually affects them when they

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Extension Bulletin 756 AUGUST 1956

ERYSIPELAS of turkeys

How to detect itAibr

How to prevent it 01"

How to control it


Erysipelas kills turkeys rapidly. It usuallyaffects them when they are 16 weeks old orolder. Toms are especially susceptible to thedisease, but outbreaks in flocks of breederhens are not uncommon. Serious losses haveoccurred in many turkey flocks in Washing-ton and Oregon. Since the disease affectsflocks which are grown or nearly so, theeconomic loss is great.



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Authors of this publication are A. C. Jerstad, Associate Veterinarian,Western Washington Experiment Station, Puyallup, Washington, andE. M. Dickinson, Head, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon StateCollege, Corvallis, Oregon.

Erysipelas is caused by the bacterium,Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae. It is thesame bacterium which causes erysipelasin swine. Chickens are rarely infectedby natural means. Pigeons, pheasants,and ducklings, as well as sheep andgoats, are susceptible.

Man also may become infected. Red-dened, painful, and swollen sores onthe hands or fingers result from infec-

Fig. 1. Tom (above) has erysipelas.Note his swollen snood


tionit usually starts in a skin scratch.The disease is rarely fatal in man, but

a doctor should be consulted if suspi-cious sores develop after handling ery-sipelas-infected turkeys. The disease med-ical doctors call erysipelas in humansis caused by a different bacterium (astreptococcus) than that which causeserysipelas in turkeys. Physicians call tur-key erysipelas in humans erysipeloid.

What Happens when a flock gets erysipelas

Occasionally, only a few deaths occurwhen a flock gets erysipelas. As a ruleyou may suspect erysipelas if you sud-denly find dead birds, unless you knowthey have cholera. Usually the dead

birds will be in good condition becausethey die so rapidly. Darkened and

purplish spots or blotches appear underthe skin around the head and on otherparts of the body. A swollen snood sug-gests erysipelas infection, but it may notoccur or it may be due to other causes.

It is difficult to spot birds that haveerysipelas, because they die so suddenly.Sick birds can be treated successfully(see section on treatment). If the dis-ease has progressed too far, however, thebird cannot be saved. It may be only amatter of hours from the time a birdfirst shows symptoms until it dies.Inspect the flock several times daily topick out and treat sick birds.

What Causes Erysipelas

Immediately treat birds you suspecthave the disease.

Cut off a shank. from each deadbird and send them to a laboratory (seefigure 3). The birds may have diedfrom cholera, which is difficult to dis-tinguish from erysipelas without diag-nostic tests. The laboratory can checkthis in a day or two by culturing theshank. Ask them to call you collect ifyou are in a hurry. Give your phonenumber. Don't forget to give history offlock (have birds been vaccinated?).

Vaccinate (see section on vaccin-ation

TreatmentMost growers in Washington and

Oregon depend on penicillin for treat-ing erysipelas in turkeys. Several peni-cillin products are available (see table1).

Streptomycin and aureomycin also maybe used but are considered less effective


Fig. 2. Erysipelas-infected turkey withtypical swelling andscabs on lowerwattle.


What to Do if your flock is caught in outbreak

than penicillin. Streptomycin and peni-cillin combination products are availableand may be used if desired.


Recently, a bacterin has been de-veloped which can be injected toimmunize (vaccinate) turkeys. It hasproved to be effective, and has takenthe "bite" out of the disease on manyfarms that formerly had considerabletrouble with erysipelas. Because of vac-cination, erysipelas is no longer h ghhdreaded.

When to vaccinate depends on variousconditions on different farms. The fol-lowing will help you decide:

You can' vaccinate at 8 to 10 weeksof age to protect the flocks until markettime.

You can vaccinate at any time after8 to 10 weeks of age (see No. 7 onnext page).

Fig. 3. How to remove and handleturkey shanks for erysipelas cul-ture ap

Grasp shank and bend hockjoint backward as far as possible.

Cut from front side of hockjoint.

Slip knife between joint sur-faces, cutting tendons and leavingmarrow cavity of shank undis-turbed.

Attach slip to shank givingdate of death, flock history, treat-ment (if any), and whether vaccin-ated. Band will serve as identifi-cation. If bird is not leg banded,write wing band number or otherinformation on attached slip. Alsoinclude flock history.

Wrap and immediately sendto laboratory in fresh condition, or:

Usually erysipelas does not strikeuntil after birds are 16 weeks of age.

Protection is best soon after vaccin-ation and then gradually decreases.

One vaccination is good and maybe enough, but revaccination boosts im-munity and improves protection. Breederturkeys should have two injections. Aninjection at about 8 to 16 weeks andagain at time of selection and bloodtesting is a good practice with breederbirds.

Do not inject the bacterin into themuscle after birds are about 16 weeks ofage if they are to be marketed. You caninject under the skin of the neck closeto the head to avoid a "pocket" in ediblemeat. Do not inject more than 2 ml. inany one place.

If you vaccinate laying birds, youmay cause a drop in lay, although manylaying flocks have been revaccinated with-


out effect on rate of lay.Outbreaks have been stopped in 48

hours after vaccination, with no othertreatment. Sick birds should be treated,however, at time of vaccination.

A bacterin is composed of deaderysipelas bacteria and cannot spread thedisease. These dead bacteria do settle outso it is imperative to shake the bacterinthoroughly before using.

You may vaccinate for erysipelasand other diseases at the same time.

How to VaccinateAn automatic syringe is necessary for

speedy operation (see figure 6). The

syringes break easily so get a spareand/or a repair kit, both of which areavailable on the market. Also get sev-eral 18-gauge needles, 1 to 11/2 inches

long. Use sharp needles. If you haveyour bacterin (vaccine), you are then

Freeze and hold until con-venient to send to laboratory.Shanks frozen several months aresatisfactory for examination.

Boil or disinfect knife afteruse and thoroughly clean hands insoap and water.

DOSE: Give 2 ml. (cc.) to each bird; it can be increased up to 4 ml.for large toms.

After using the syringe, disassemble it and thoroughly wash theparts in a warm, detergent solution. Rinse at least three times andallow to air dry. After drying, reassemble the syringe so that it willbe ready for the next use. Leave plunger as far back in the barrelas possible when you put the syringe away.

ready to start. However, it pays to "rigup" with catching chutes, convenient-sized tables or benches of comfortableworking height, and to have plenty ofhelp. Try to vaccinate at a time whenyou are handling the birds for someother operation. By doing this, you willneed only a small amount of extra helpfor vaccination.

Will Erysipelas Recur?Erysipelas may strike one year on a

particular farm and never show up againon that farm. However, the only saferule on most farms has been: "Once afarm is infected, it is always infected."Hence if you have erysipelas one year,plan to vaccinate the next year. You willbe right more often than wrong.


Fig. 4. Shake the bottle before injecting bacterin.

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Penicillin Products You Can Use

Product and units per cc. Remarks

Procaine penicillin G 300,000 units and Aqueous (water) solution. Crystallinecrystalline penicillin G Potassium 100,000 penicillin G Potassium is fastest act-units* ing and shortest lasting form. Is used

in acute cases.

Some as Product 1, but diluted in oil Oil diluent prolongs action. Some-instead of water* times difficult to use in cold weather.

Not as fast acting as Product 1 andis not recommended for advancedcases.

Products I and 2 each contain 400,000 units of penicillin per cc. Dose used is 0.5 (1/21 cc. or 200,000units since it is impractical to measure less. Repeat treatment if necessary. Product 3 has only 300 000 units.Dose is 1.0 cc.

Fig. 5. Stab the syringe deep into the breast muscle.


Dibenzylethylenediamine dipenicillin G Aqueous (water) solution. Longest-150,000 units and procaine penicillin acting form (may remain in blood upG 150,00 units to 4 days). This long-acting form is

combined with a faster acting form.

The Automatic Syringe Its Use and Care

- 1,1 I Mtliii III

Fig. 7. The syringe part of an auto-matic syringe along with the springthat returns the plunger and thering for supporting the spring.


Fig. 6. An automatic syringe for administering erysipelas bacterinturkeys.

Fig. 8. A layout of the ports of theautomatic filling and injecting as-sembly of on automatic syringe.

All pieces and parts are shown in Figure 8 in the order and position in whichthey go together. The floating gaskets must be assembled as shown.

Cut a hole in a vaccine bottle stopper and run rubber tube from syringe throughit if the metal ball is used at the end of the rubber hose. A snug fit will preventspill