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Wild Turkey Diseases – LPDV

This Turkey Tuesday is about wild turkey diseases, in this case a disease called lymphoproliferative disease virus – LPDV for short. With turkey seasons around the corner, folks start sharing pictures of birds and inevitably, birds that are sick pop up and are shared. Wild turkeys battle various diseases, but one we’re continuing to learn much about is LPDV. LPDV causes tumors in internal organs, which causes the bird to be weak, lethargic, and often disoriented. Although LPDV can cause mortalities, it’s unclear whether the virus causes any negative effects at the population level – in fact, ongoing testing shows that the virus is common throughout broad areas of turkey range and some populations have prevalence levels that exceed 50%. The tom in these pictures shows telltale signs of LPDV infection, and illness in general. He’s hunched over at times, his eyes are dull and he squints, and in the 2nd picture you can clearly see lesions (nodules) on this head. Interestingly, avian pox also causes lesions on the head and neck, and many birds that test positive for LPDV also have pox virus – but it’s unclear what the relationship between the 2 viruses may be. Another sign of being sick and immunosuppressed you see on this tom is the complete lack of caruncles on his head and neck – this points to hormonal disruptions caused by illness, so the production of testosterone is interrupted and influences this tom’s secondary sexual characters like the caruncles. But unlike many sick birds, this guy continues to take care of himself, his feathers look good, and he’s been preening himself despite his illness. The take home is, LPDV and other diseases are issues wild turkeys constantly battle, and ongoing work will hopefully identify what these diseases may mean at the population level.

Pics by Clayton Worrell

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