Duck Hepatitis Virus

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Order RNA viruses
Family Astroviridae
Genus Astrovirus
Species DHV-II
Order RNA Viruses
Family Picornaviridae
Genus Enterovirus
Species Duck Hepatitis Virus I and III

Also Known As: Duck Viral HepatitisDVHDH

Caused By: Duck Hepatitis Virus 1 and 3DHV-1DHV-3


Duck hepatitis is caused by the enteroviruses DHV-1 and DHV-3.

It is a highly fatal disease of ducklings causing very high mortality, opisthotonus and hepatitis.


Ducks are the only species naturally affected.

DHV-1 occurs only in young ducklings, usually <6 weeks of age and spreads rapidly within a flock. It is the most virulent of the three.

DHV-2, an astrovirus (duck astrovirus 1), not an enterovirus, has only been reported in outdoor ducks on open fields.

Duck Hepatitis is not considered zoonotic.


DHV-1 is present worldwide.

DHV-2 has only been reported in Norfolk, England and no outbreaks have been recorded since the 1980’s.

DHV-3 has only been reported in the USA.

Clinical Signs

Sudden deaths, Opisthotonus, Paresis, Paralysis, Enopthalmos.

DHV-1 infection is most virulent. Morbidity is 100%, with mortality <95% up to one week of age, <50% for 1-3 weeks of age and negligible thereafter. Death usually occurs within 1-2 hours of clinical signs.

Mortality rates are lower in DHV-2 infections, reaching only 20%.


On post-mortem examination, the liver is enlarged, appears greenish and displays distinct ecchymotic haemorrhages.

Splenic and kidney swelling may also be evident. Cutaneous haemorrhage is often noted.

On histopathology, necrosis and inflammatory infiltrate are visible within hepatic cells.

Innoculation from liver suspensions can be used for confirmation of all DHVs using embryonated duck eggs, chicken eggs and tissue culture.

Direct immunofluorescence can also confirm presence of DHV-1.

Virus Neutralisation (VN) serological tests can be used to monitor vaccination response and epidemiology.


No treatment is effective once infected.


Vaccination is only commercially available against DHV-1. Immunisation involves two or three innoculations. Live, attenuated and inactivated forms are available.

DHV-1 can be prevented by strict isolation in the first 4-5 weeks of life.

The viruses are resistant to inactivation by heat, acid and some disinfectants. Only 5% phenol and formaldehyde are successful in inactivating the viruses.

Duck Hepatitis is a Class B disease listed by the Office des International Epizooties and thus any ducks exported require an international veterinary certificate that they are from a DVH free establishment and are not exhibiting clinical signs of DH. Vaccination status must also be disclosed.

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Literature Search
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DHV Publications


Gough R.E. and McNulty, M.S. (2007) Picornaviridae. In: Poultry Diseases, 6th Edition (eds. Pattison, M., McMullin, P., Bradbury, J., Alexander, D.) Saunders, Elsevier, pp 350-359

Woolcock, P.R. (2008) Duck Hepatitis. In: Diseases of Poultry, 12th Edition (eds. Saif, Y.M., Fadly A.M., Glissen J.R., McDougald L.R., Nolan L.K., Swayne D.E.) Wiley-Blackwell, pp 373-384


This article was originally sourced from The Animal Health & Production Compendium (AHPC) published online by CABI during the OVAL Project.

The datasheet was accessed on 5 June 2011.

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