Margaret A. Wissman, DVM
Posted: January 11, 2013, 4:00 p.m. PST
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio/Courtesy Omar's Exotic Birds
Psittacine circovirus typically affects young birds.
Originally known as psittacine beak and feather disease
(PBFD), the psittacine circovirus, as it is now called, causes damage to the immune system. Avian circovirus is typically a disease affecting young birds, up to 3-years-old, although symptoms of this circovirus can show up in older birds. The virus is thought to infect younger birds when their immune system is not as strong. Infected birds can go on for years without showing any signs of the disease. While this viral disease is no longer commonly diagnosed in the larger species of psittacine, as most breeders have tested and culled out positive birds, it is still occasionally diagnosed in exposed big birds, but is more prevalent in lovebirds, as breeder flocks are not routinely tested. Cases of psittacine circovirus in the larger species are often the result of being housed around or hand-fed as juveniles near lovebirds. A variant of circovirus is most commonly diagnosed in lories and lorikeets
Psittacine circovirus is thought to be spread by feather dander, fecal matter and other bodily fluids passed by infected birds. The virus causes abnormalities to a bird’s feathers, overgrown beaks and toenails, and a lack of powder down. Many birds succumb to secondary infections that occur as a result of the immunosuppression of the immune system.
Because there is no vaccine yet for circovirus, it is important that bird owners and breeders exercise responsible pet ownership by working to prevent the spread of the disease. Having your bird tested for circovirus can stop other birds from being exposed to the virus. Only purchase birds from reputable aviculturists who have tested susceptible breeders or test offspring.
Many birds that test positive for the virus can develop a defense against the disease and later test negative for circovirus, indicating a natural vaccination, which should mean the bird has immunity to the psittacine circovirus. Those birds that begin to show the signs of circovirus cannot yet be treated for the viral infection. While there is no cure or vaccine for circovirus, secondary infections that develop as a result of immunosuppression – fungal, bacterial, mycoplasmal, chlamydial and protozoal – can be treated to improve the bird’s overall state of health while living with this virus. Support care to provide an excellent plane of nutrition, to minimize stress and exposure to infections and to have regular check-ups with an avian vet familiar with the immunosuppressive effects of this virus can help prolong the life of a bird suffering from circoviral infection. The bird should be isolated from other psittacine birds to prevent the infection of other birds, and no young parrot species should be introduced into the home, even after the infected bird passes away, as infective viral particles will be present in the environment for a long period of time.
Disclaimer: BirdChannel.com’s Bird Health Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.