Infectious Laryngotracheitis

Synonyms: LT, ILT, trach, laryngo

Species affected: Chickens and pheasants are affected by LT. Chickens 14 weeks and older are more susceptible than young chickens. Most LT outbreaks occur in mature hens. In recent years, LT has also caused significant respiratory problems in broilers greater than 3 weeks of age, especially during the cooler seasons of the year. This is believed to be due to unwanted spread of LT vaccines between poultry flocks.

Clinical signs: The clinical sign usually first noticed is watery eyes. Affected birds remain quiet because breathing is difficult. Coughing, sneezing, and shaking of the head to dislodge exudate plugs in the windpipe follow. Birds extend their head and neck to facilitate breathing (commonly referred to as “pump handle respiration”). Inhalation produces a wheezing and gurgling sound. Blood-tinged exudates and serum clots are expelled from the trachea of affected birds. Many birds die from asphyxiation due to a blockage of the trachea when the tracheal plug is freed (see Table 1).

Transmission: LT is spread by the respiratory route. LT is also spread from flock to flock by contaminated clothing, shoes, tires, etc. Birds that recover should be considered carriers for life. LT may be harbored in speciality poultry such as exhibition birds and game fowl.

Treatment: Incinerate dead birds, administer antibiotics to control secondary infection, and vaccinate the flock. Mass vaccination by spray or drinking water method is not recommended for large commercial or caged flocks. Individual bird administration by the eye-drop route is suggested. Follow manufacturers instructions. In small poultry flocks, use a swab to remove plug from gasping birds, and vaccinate by eye-drop method.

Prevention: Vaccinate replacement birds for outbreak farms. Vaccination for LT is not as successful as for other disease, but is an excellent preventive measure for use in outbreaks and in epidemic areas. Refer to the publication PS-36 (Vaccination of Small Poultry Flocks) for more information on LT vaccinations.