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New Bolton Center Kennett Square, PA
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Understanding disease prevalence in Pennsylvania wild turkeys

By: Erica Moser Date: Mar 11, 2024
Wild turkey being held by a person.
A game warden with the Pennsylvania Game Commission holds a wild turkey during a turkey trapping in northeastern Pennsylvania. Also in attendance were people from Penn Vet's Wildlife Futures Program: Lauren Maxwell, wildlife health technician, and R. Scott Larsen, wildlife veterinary liaison. (Image: R. Scott Larsen/Wildlife Futures Program)

Known to affect domestic turkeys in the U.K., Austria, the Netherlands, and Israel since the 1970s, lymphoproliferative disease virus (LPDV) was not recognized in wild turkeys in North America until 2009, making this retrovirus that results in organ and skin tumors relatively new to researchers.

Erick Gagne, assistant professor of wildlife disease ecology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, says the disease can cause cancer in some cases. But the prevalence in Pennsylvania wild turkeys, population-level impacts, and co-infection with other diseases—such as reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV)—remain unknown. He and other researchers from the Wildlife Futures Program at Penn Vet are working to answer these questions.

Gagne and Eman Anis, assistant professor of microbiology at Penn Vet, are leading the Wild Turkey Health Project, Penn’s contribution to a larger, multi-year turkey monitoring study in collaboration with Penn State and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. To analyze movement data and habitat use, Game Commission researchers are putting GPS trackers on turkeys, which provide location and movement information such as when a bird is nesting or has died.

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About Penn Vet

Ranked among the top ten veterinary schools worldwide, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) is a global leader in veterinary education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the first veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, handling more than 34,600 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. The hospital handles more than 6,200 patient visits a year, while our Field Services have gone out on more than 5,500 farm service calls, treating some 18,700 patients at local farms. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.