Aspergillosis is an infectious fungal disease affecting poultry in which birds will usually be left gasping for breath.
The disease is contracted by inhalation when there is a high spore count in the air. Disinfectant has little effect on the spores. The incubation period of the infection is between 2 and 6 days and it can infect many other species of animals as well as chickens.
Mortality among young birds can be as high as 50% but this is very dependent on the severity of the infection.
Aspergillosis in chickens usually appears when they become immunocompromised / stressed such as when they get a heavy internal parasite load (when they have worms) or have gone without food or water for some reason.
The aspergillus spores grow well on damp bark chips so it is wise to avoid these as a ground substrate in poultry runs, even though they seem like a good solution. Hardwood chips are safe to use instead because they do not allow the spores to grow very well.
Signs and symptoms:
- Rapid breathing, gasping for breath.
- Loss of appetite, a greater thirst.
Prevention: Poultry bedding material should be kept clean and dry. Runs should not use bark chips as a substrate.
Treatment: Amphotericin B and Nystatin can be prescribed by a vet but aren’t usually used due to their cost. Misting birds as soon as they get the infection with a disinfectant called F10. Strictly under veterinary supervision of course, this is not something that can be done without guidance.