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Dec 5, 2023Print this page

Poultry Diseases Symptoms and Treatments: Swabbing Live Birds

Photo of a medical professional swabbing the mouth of a baby bird.

In the realm of poultry farming, swabbing plays a pivotal role in disease management and prevention. It's not just about maintaining the health of the birds – it extends beyond that to ensuring the safety of the global food supply and protecting public health.

Over the past few years, you may have seen an uptick in poultry-related disease diagnoses across the United States. This cornerstones the need for swabbing as a frontline defense in detecting diseases early, which is essential for containing outbreaks and preventing them from spreading within flocks or to humans. This practice is also a key component in comprehensive biosecurity programs, which are vital in modern poultry operations to maintain the overall health and productivity of the flock.

Key Diseases Identified Through Poultry Swabbing

Poultry swabs serve as an essential tool in diagnosing a range of diseases that can significantly impact bird health and farm productivity. Among these, Avian Influenza and Virulent Newcastle Disease are notable for their highly contagious nature and potential to cause severe outbreaks. 

Avian Infectious Bronchitis, while less known to the public, is equally important as it impacts the respiratory, reproductive, and renal systems of birds. Salmonellosis, a bacterial infection, also poses a significant risk not just to poultry but also to human health, as it can be transmitted through contaminated poultry products.

Common Poultry Diseases Symptoms 

The diagnosis of poultry diseases often begins with the observation of symptoms, which can vary widely but typically include:

  • Respiratory distress, such as coughing, sneezing, and gasping.
  • Changes in behavior, including lethargy and reduced activity.
  • Physical symptoms like facial swelling and diarrhea.
  • Production-related signs, such as a drop in egg production and poor egg quality.
  • An increase in mortality rates can be a clear indicator of a severe disease outbreak within your flock.

If you see any of these symptoms, it’s vital to test for poultry diseases as soon as you’re able to.

Which Birds Are Most Frequently Swabbed?

Regular swabbing is particularly critical for bird species commonly raised in close-quarter farming. Chickens, both broilers and layers, are often the primary focus due to their significant role in global food production. Turkeys are also swabbed regularly, given their susceptibility to various respiratory diseases. 

Ducks and geese, raised for both meat and eggs, are also included in swabbing protocols due to their role in the food industry and potential disease carriers – but interestingly enough, ducks and geese are more disease resistant than poultry species and could be asymptomatic carriers of the disease that’s affecting a mixed flock of birds.

Addressing the Need for Healthy Flocks

A quick history lesson…

The National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), established in the 1930s, serves as a crucial initiative for promoting the health of poultry flocks and ensuring a safe food supply. This program, a division under the United States Department of Agriculture, operates based on guidelines outlined in the US Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The NPIP was designed to foster collaboration among industry stakeholders, state, and federal agencies, focusing on the integration and application of evolving diagnostic technology methods. 

This collaborative effort has significantly contributed to advancements in the poultry industry nationwide. The specific testing standards applied by the NPIP are detailed in Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations (9 CFR) part 147, with regular amendments and updates reflecting the progress and evolution of industry practices.

The Best Swabs for Poultry Disease Swabbing

A lab leader at a prominent poultry lab believed a better swab was out there and requested samples of Puritan's flocked swab. The lab professional designed and conducted the study that would yield decisive data. The results confirmed that the rayon flocked swab was far superior in the collection and release of a reliable specimen when compared to the conventional spun rayon on plastic swabs that were previously in use. Not only that, but the flexibility of the swab shaft and the soft tip of the applicator made it more chicken-friendly − a clear plus from the bird's perspective.

Since that study in 2013, the swab identified by that study has been specified for poultry testing by many lab professionals as well as by government agencies who monitor wild bird populations for communicable diseases.

Let’s learn more about flocked swabs.

Flocked Swabs: Revolutionizing Poultry Specimen Collection

Swabbing in poultry is a critical component of maintaining bird health, ensuring food safety, and protecting public health. The advancement of tools like Puritan's flocked swabs has significantly improved the efficiency and effectiveness of specimen collection. Understanding the diseases, symptoms, and appropriate collection tools is essential for anyone involved in poultry health management.

The shift from conventional rayon-tipped applicators to flocked swabs, such as Puritan’s mini-tip PurFlock Ultra®, has transformed specimen collection in poultry. These swabs are designed to be less stressful for the birds while providing a more efficient and effective means of collecting samples. Their unique structure allows for enhanced sample uptake and release, which is crucial for accurate diagnostic testing.

Puritan’s HydraFlock® and PurFlock Ultra® swabs are specially designed with polyester for effective specimen collection, featuring molded breakpoints for ease of use. Their range includes:

  • Standard tip swabs (25-3306-U/H, 25-3406-U/H) for general use.
  • Elongated tip swabs (25-3806-U/H) for deeper sampling.
  • Fine-tip applicators (25-800 D 50, 25-800 1PD 50, 25-800 1PD ALUM 50) for smaller pets and specific collection needs.
  • Available in HydraFlock or PurFlock Ultra configurations, these swabs (25-3316-U/H, 25-3317-U/H, 25-3318-U/H) are tailored for specialized collection requirements.

For more information about Puritan’s products and their application in specimen collection, please contact our knowledgeable product specialists.

Contact a sales rep, today!

Topics: Flocked Swabs, Veterinary, Environmental and Food Safety


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