Erysipelas: increased risk in autumn and winter months


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Erysipelas: increased risk in autumn and winter months


Erysipelas is a disease caused by the bacteria Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae. It is a serious disease which can cause high mortality among chickens (layers, breeding animals) and turkeys. In the acute form, an erysipelas infection can result in sepsis in poultry within 2 to 5 days. Infected animals die quickly, with mortality rates up to 25 percent. Internally, the severely swollen liver and spleen are particularly noticeable. The disease is associated with a significant production drop in layers. In chronic cases, coordination problems and skin damage are often noticed, with slightly increased losses. Chronic cases have been documented in turkeys. In the first quarter of 2021 in the Netherlands, a veterinary practice and GD discovered the bacteria in layers suffering from inflamed eyelids. In countries with a lower biosecurity status, there is a high incidence of Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae in broilers and this can even reach 80 percent in (seemingly) healthy animals. Such a situation would result in serious public health issues in the Netherlands. Ambient infection can take place via (winged and crawling) insects and small rodents. The spreading of contaminated manure on grasslands has also been identified as a possible source of infection. Contamination may persist at farms due to infected poultry mites, and infected rats and mice.

Erysipelas can be transmitted to other types of animals, but also to humans. During post mortem inspection of dead animals, there is a risk of becoming infected, for instance in the case of a scratch caused by a sharp bone fragment. This will initially result in a skin rash, inflammation of the lymphatic vessels and the lymph nodes. Within a week, this can develop into sepsis. Therefore, a medical professional should always be consulted. Various mammals can carry the bacteria, thereby serving as the reservoir from which outbreaks can be initiated.

On assessing the monitoring results of the past decades, outbreaks of erysipelas in poultry are shown to mainly occur during the autumn months and early winter (fourth and first quarters of the year); in both free-range and barn flocks. This period corresponds with harvesting and the movements of (brown) rats and mice related to that. Read the whole article in Monitoring Animal Health of October 2021

Other subjects in Monitoring Animal Health 

  • New legislation for plan of action Newcastle Disease (PoA)
  • Salmonella Pullorum in layers
  • Antibiotic susceptibility
  • Animal health barometer for poultry, second quarter 2021

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