There isn’t much known about reovirus, making it difficult to confidently diagnose. We have seen the presentation of disease change a great deal in the last few years. We are finding and isolating Reovirus much more often and in my professional opinion we might be attributing a lot of disease to it that might be from other factors.
One reason for this increase is that now we are looking for reovirus, it is on our differential list for any mortality with aortic ruptures or leg issues, and it is also something to rule out in the absence of any other reason for birds to be dying in ways similar to mycotoxins. It can be easier to find something when you are looking and testing for it.
I typically suspect reo in birds with swollen flexor ten-dons, especially when birds are observed with raised middle toes off the litter. I suspect reo when I have higher aortic rupture rates, such as more that 1/1000 birds in one week.
Reo is definitely found in flocks, and it is likely impossible to state with certainty that the disease isn’t causing other issues. Yet, I typically search for alternative culprits to the mortality and morbidity in the barn in the absence of swollen hocks/aortic ruptures.
To test or not to test
Unless the practice can help with research, or there is a request from a customer, I hesitate to send tissue to be tested for confirmation of reo. In some cases, results are not timely, and the flock could be marketed by the time we receive the results, making them inconsequential to our course of action.
While we are not able to treat our way free of reo, we can treat the symptoms. There are three methods of treatment. Aspirin can be used to decrease the inflammation that causes the lameness in the cases that are more swollen hock related, and there has been some success when using vita-min E along with severely decreasing activity in the flock to address aortic rupture. The last option is to process the flock as soon as able. Unless you really enjoy picking up and carrying turkeys, do not use aspirin in flocks with aortic ruptures. The side effects of the aspirin make it easier for birds to die from bleeding, thus worsening the death loss.
Arguably, the best way to remove the reovirus is to clean and disinfect your barn and break the chain of contact on the farm. That has been my recommendation for several years now. Recently, there have been cases of the next flock coming in without reovirus symptoms even after no disinfection, yet the disease could still be present and lacking symptoms at that point since those subsequent flocks were not tested.
As always, if you have concerns about the health of your turkeys, you should discuss them with your veterinarian and they can help you better navigate the disease process.