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Herpes Virus

Find out how the herpes virus effects pet birds and how your avian veterinarian will treat it.

Margaret A. Wissman, DVM
Posted: February 14, 2013, 7:00 p.m. PST


Some birds can have the herpes virus, and not show symptoms for years.
The herpes virus typically infects lymphatic tissue, epithelial cells (skin, mucosa, hepatocytes) and nerve cells. Various strains of herpes virus exist and it is well adapted to its hosts. Research has suggested that other strains of avian herpes virus will develop, confusing the classification system more.

Herpes virus is persistent and often lays dormant in an infected host for weeks, months, years or for a lifetime.


Localized damage or death of tissue in the parenchymatous organs causing lesions (necrotizing lesions) is characteristic of the more serious herpes virus strains. Companion and aviary birds with some strains of herpes virus may endure lesions that bleed excessively (hemorrhagic lesions).

Because the virus can be a latent infection, birds may carry the disease without showing any symptoms for years.


Because the virus can be a latent infection, birds may carry the disease without showing any symptoms for years. Diagnosis of which strain a bird is carrying must be determined before treatment. For high risk patients, some strains have vaccines, such as Pacheco’s Disease Virus (PDV), which is induced by a herpes virus. The vaccines, however, may or may not be helpful because in some cases problems arise after the vaccination is administered.


For infected birds whose virus can be controlled, supportive care and treatment of secondary infections may be necessary.

Disclaimer:’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.

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