Poxvirus infection can affect any species of birds; the severity can be mild in some cases, while deadly in others. Poxvirus belongs to the same family as smallpox and cowpox. It is an insect-borne disease; mosquitoes and other types of insects get the virus when feeding on a bird, carrying the virus for a month or more. Affected birds which recover from Poxvirus don’t remain carriers of the causative agent.
Birds which are housed outdoors or allowed to spend time outside the house have higher risks of being infected. This also includes those with cracks in their skin; the virus cannot get past skin that is intact.
There are three main types of poxvirus affecting birds—
- Septicemic Poxvirus – the disease affects nearly the entire body; affected birds have bluish skin, fluffed feathers, and are lethargic. Commonly affected species include finches and canaries.
- Diphtheroid Poxvirus (Wet Pox) — affected birds have swollen eyes and conjunctivitis. Corneal ulcers may also be present. There may be brown or gray lesions inside the mouth. Inflammation of the upper parts of the respiratory system makes eating and breathing difficult. This form commonly affects Pionus parrots, passerines, and blue-fronted Amazons.
- Cutaneous Poxvirus (Dry Pox) – small growths can be seen on different parts of the body and non-feathered areas often have crusty scabs. Most lesions can be seen in the eyes and mouth. Raptors and Psittacines are the ones which are commonly affected by this type of Poxvirus disease.