Avian Cholera News
Most species of birds and mammals can become infected with different
strains of Pasteurella multocida; however, avian cholera in wild birds is
primarily caused by one strain, Type 1. The species of birds most
commonly affected are ducks and geese, coots, gulls, and crows.
The bacteria can be transmitted by bird-to-bird contact, contact
with secretions or feces of infected birds, or ingestion of food or water
containing the bacteria. Aerosol tranmission may also occur. The bacteria
may survive up to 4 months in soil and water.
Clinical Signs/Field Signs
Large die-offs are seen primarily in wild ducks and geese where the disease affects
birds peracutely; that is, very rapidly. Field observations may include the sudden
appearance of large numbers of dead birds in good body condition with few, if any,
sick birds present. Sick birds appear lethargic, and when captured may die within minutes.
Other signs include convulsions; swimming in circles; throwing the head back between
the wings; erratic flight and miscalculated landing attempts; mucous discharge from the
mouth; soiling or matting of the feathers around the vent, eyes, and bill; pasty, fawn-colored
or yellow droppings; or blood-stained droppings or nasal discharge..
Hemorrhages may be seen on the heart, liver, gizzard, and intestines. Areas
of tissue death appear as white or yellow "spots" on the liver and spleen.
The liver may appear darkened or copper in color, and may be swollen and
rupture when handled. These lesions are indicative of an acute disease process
and are not unique to avian cholera infection. The upper digestive tract may
contain recently ingested food, while lower digestive tract may contain a thick
yellowish viscous fluid that contains large numbers of P. multocida bacteria.
Wildlife Management Significance
Avian cholera is highly contagious and can spread rapidly. Prompt action
is needed to prevent and minimize the spread of the disease. Careful carcass
collection and disposal helps reduce the amount of bacteria in the environment.
Recommendations are site specific. Contact the National Wildlife Health Center for more information.
For more information please contact: The USGS National Wildlife Health Center, at 608-270-2400.
Public Health Significance
Humans are not at a high risk for infection with the bacterial strain causing
avian cholera. Wearing gloves and thoroughly washing hands is recommended
when handling these birds or any sick or dead animal.
For a map of cholera in wild birds through 2004:
You can also see the National Atlas's dynamic map of avian cholera here
- Go to the National Atlas
- Click on the yellow 'Map Maker' button in the menu
- Select: 'Biology' > 'Wildlife Mortality' >
- Click on the blinking 'Redraw map' button above the side menu