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Infectious Laryngotracheitis

Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT) is an infectious disease found in poultry such as chickens, pheasants and turkeys. The disease is not a risk to human health. It is highly contagious in poultry and can be spread from one bird to another, or from contaminated food and water sources. Symptoms include conjunctivitis, severe dyspnea (shortness of breath), coughing, nasal and ocular discharge. ILT is caused by the gallid herpesvirus 1. It is a notifiable disease and must be reported to the Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer within 24 hours of confirmation.

There is no treatment for ILT. Vaccines are available for the disease; however, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with these vaccinations. Vaccination is commonly used for disease control in areas where the disease is endemic. Vaccinated birds can still spread the disease to non-vaccinated birds and certain vaccines have also been associated with subsequent ILT outbreaks. ILT vaccination is not currently used by the commercial poultry industry in Saskatchewan and we do not recommend using it at this time.

The following table is a list of laboratory confirmed outbreaks of ILT occurring in Saskatchewan. ILT became a notifiable disease in 2014; the first case to be reported in Saskatchewan after this was in 2016.

Year Location of Outbreak (nearest town/city) Industry Sector
2016 Prince Albert Small/hobby flock
2016 Melville Small/hobby flock
2016 Outlook Small/hobby flock
2017 Paynton Small/hobby flock
2017 Domremy Small/hobby flock
2017 Kamsack Small/hobby flock
2017 Kindersley Small/hobby flock
2017 Yorkton Small/hobby flock
2018 Moose Jaw Small/hobby flock
2019 Nipawin Small/hobby flock
2020 Rosthern Small/hobby flock
2020 Preeceville Small/hobby flock
2020 Grasswood Small/hobby flock
2020 Hague Small/hobby flock
2020 Melville Small/hobby flock
2020 Wawota Small/hobby flock
2020 Davidson Small/hobby flock
2020 Stoughton Small/hobby flock

Euthanasia for Disease Control

Euthanasia is an important component of disease control and should be considered for poultry that may spread diseases to others. Euthanasia is also an important consideration to ensure that affected birds are not suffering unnecessarily, particularly if no treatment options are available or effective. Someone who is competent in euthanasia methods should be responsible for the humane slaughter of the sick poultry. Alberta Farm Animal Care has resources on how to prepare for and perform euthanasia.

In the event of certain diseases, such as an ILT outbreak, euthanasia is recommended for all poultry on-farm to ensure the disease does not spread to future flocks or off the property to other flocks. Birds that recover from ILT continue to carry the virus for life and can spread it to other birds or become sick again themselves. Euthanasia contains the spread of the disease to and prevents suffering in affected birds. Necessary precautions should be taken when handling and disposing of the infected carcasses to prevent disease transmission to wildlife and other birds.

When Should Poultry Be Euthanized?

When it has been determined that a bird should be euthanized, the procedure should be carried out in a timely manner, by competent personnel. Decision making around euthanasia requires knowledge of normal poultry behavior as well as signs of illness and injury. It is important that prompt euthanasia occurs under one or more of the following circumstances:

  • The bird is unlikely to recover on its own.
  • The bird fails to respond to treatment.
  • The bird exhibits signs of severe debilitating pain and suffering.
  • The bird cannot access food and water on its own.
  • The bird cannot stand or walk.
  • The bird exhibits marked signs of weight loss/loss of condition.

For more information on humane slaughter of poultry, see the Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Hatching Eggs, Breeders, Chickens and Turkeys. You can also contact the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock Branch at 360-787-2150.

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