Blackhead Disease In Turkey: Causes, Symptoms And Control

blackhead disease

Among all poultry birds, turkey is of high economic value. They are fleshier and produce more meat for consumption. Also, the quality of the protein in turkey is relatively higher than other poultry birds. Blackhead disease in turkey is a major disease that greatly impairs the productivity of the birds. Diseases are best prevented than treated; several measures have to be taken to prevent and control this disease. But before then, let us find out the causes of blackhead disease.

Causes Of Blackhead Disease In Turkey

Blackhead is caused by the protozoan Histomonas meleagridis.This organism damages the cecal wall of the infected bird and has the potential to damage the liver. Common earthworms are the host of this pathogen; the pathogen is being ingested by the common earthworm where it can survive for a very long period. If infected earthworms are available around the farm, the turkeys feed on the infected earthworms and conversely get infected with Blackhead disease.

Once a turkey incubates the Blackhead organism, Histomonas meleagridis , the organism infects the cecal worm in the bird’s digestive tract. Cecal worms are prolific in nature; they produce copious microscopic eggs that are also susceptible to infection by the Blackhead organism. These eggs are deposited to the environment through the droppings of infected birds.

Healthy turkeys gullibly ingest these eggs, thus, becoming infected and perpetuating the disease cycle. The cecal worm egg is highly resistant to heat, cold and most disinfectants. As a result of this resistance, a contaminated area remains contaminated for a long time. Other poultry birds susceptible to this disease aside turkey are pheasants, quail, and other game birds.


Symptoms Of Blackhead In Turkey

The symptom of Blackhead disease is very similar to that of Coccidiosis; most farmers wrongfully interpret it as a symptom of Coccidiosis. The first symptom is high acute mortality; in severe cases, mortality can be up to 70 percent in some flocks. Early signs of Blackhead disease may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Drooping of the head and wings
  • Walking with an unusual gait
  • Soiled vent feathers due to diarrhea
  • Bright yellow feces resulting from the infection of the liver.
  • Loss of weight and a depressed, weak appearance.

Sometimes, the head of the bird has a bluish or black discoloration of the skin due to deficient oxygenation of the blood. The primary lesions of Blackhead develop in the ceca and the liver. These lesions, thus, promote bloody cecal discharges.


How To Prevent And Control Blackhead Disease In Turkey

Prevention, as it is popularly said, is better than cure. Farming could be very lucrative only if farmers would follow and adhere strictly to preventive measures. It is the best form of treatment of any poultry disease.

Prevention starts from the elimination of the intermediate host of Blackhead disease. It has been observed that the causative organisms of Blackhead, Histomonas meleagridis, cannot survive more than minutes without the presence of a host, hence, for effective control, the host has to be eliminated to make the causative organism sterile.

Also, the type of housing where the turkeys are kept needs to be considered. The chief host of Blackhead disease is an earthworm. Turkeys reared under an extensive system or semi-intensive system are at greater risk of getting infected as they can easily have access to an earthworm. Hence, to prevent turkeys from blackhead disease and other deleterious diseases, turkeys should be kept under an intensive system or housing where the floor is cemented.

Turkeys must always be prevented from getting access to their droppings. The litter materials should be changed regularly and the stock density of the pen should be moderate. Avoid overcrowding; it increases the spread of diseases and contamination. Deworming is also one of the preventive measures of Blackhead disease; deworming should be carried out occasionally to eliminate detrimental intestinal worms like the cecal worms.

However, in a situation where the disease has been established, treatment of the disease follows to recuperate infected turkeys. Drugs are commonly used for treatments. Do not make the mistake of administering vaccines. The most effective drug used for treating Blackhead disease in turkey is Histostat-50. It can be used as feed additives as it can also be used for prevention.

Although Blackhead can be a devastating disease causing high mortality in turkeys and other poultry birds, routine prevention strategies can reduce or eliminate its occurrence.

Read: 6 Effective Ways To Control Odor In Poultry Farm

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