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Duck Viral Hepatitis (DVH)

Duck viral hepatitis (DVH) is an acute, highly contagious, often fatal disease of young ducklings (less than 4 weeks old). DVH is caused by duck hepatitis virus type 1 (DHV-1), belonging to the Picornaviridae family and Avihepatovirus genus. The onset of DVH is rapid and the virus spreads quickly through susceptible flock members. It rarely occurs in ducks over 4 weeks old. If ducklings older than 4 weeks old are infected, they have a greater chance of survival and are not as severely affected. Ducklings that recover may shed the virus in their feces for up to 8 weeks.

In Asia, DHV type 1 A (DHAV) strains are prevalent, and these are further categorized into three different serotypes, which include: the traditional serotype 1 (DHAV-1), DHAV-2 (reported in Taiwan) and DHAV-3 (a novel serotype isolated in China and South Korea). In these regions, many ducks have been reported to be co-infected with multiple serotypes, usually involving DHAV-1 and DHAV-3.

Clinical signs
Early clinical signs include weakness, depression or reluctance to move. Close to death, affected ducklings will often develop spasmodic contractions in their legs, causing them to fall to their sides and kick out, like they are paddling their legs (this clinical sign is often referred to as 'leg paddling'). Soon after this clinical sign is observed, ducklings will usually die with their head and neck drawn backwards (known as 'opisthotonos').

DHV is transmitted to ducklings through direct and indirect oral routes, and through inhalation. Brown rats are thought to act as a reservoir host of the virus.

Incubation Period
The incubation period for DVH is 24 hours and most ducklings die within 3-4 days.


Closed or partially closed eyes
Incoordination (ataxia)
Falls to one side
Opisthotonus (head and neck arched backwards)
Leg paddling


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Virus isolation
  • PCR


MethodMethod Summary
Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own duck "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Report diseaseDVH is a reportable disease in the United States, meaning that if you suspect that your duck has this disease, by law you need to report it to your veterinarian, or a state or federal veterinarian.
Baicalin (Scutellaria baicalensis) extract100-200 mg/kg of diet
DHV antiserum administered via IM injection.
Traditional Chinese veterinary medicineHypericum japonicum-Radix Rehmanniae Recens-Salvia plebeian (HRS)


  • Vaccination: An attenuated DHAV vaccine and a hyperimmune serum are available and effective
  • A modified live DHV-1 vaccine can be used for early vaccination of progeny of non-immune breeders. It is administered by the subcutaneous route or by foot stab in a single dose to day old ducklings.
  • Minimize exposure to rodents, especially rats.
  • Isolate young ducklings less than 4 to 5 weeks of age from older ducks.
  • Avoid contact with wild waterfowl


Age Range

Ducklings under 4 weeks old.

Risk Factors

  • High populations of rodents, especially rats.