I-Team 8

Rare virus causing thin-shelled or shell-less eggs in Indiana chickens

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Chicken farms in northern Indiana are reporting “egg drop syndrome,” a disease characterized by soft-shelled and shell-less eggs from otherwise apparently healthy chickens.

Denise Derrer Spears, public information director at Indiana State Board of Animal Health, said, “We are concerned about it.”

This is the first time this particular strain of the egg drop syndrome has been reported in Indiana, and it was first noticed late last year. 

Egg drop syndrome is believed to be caused by a virus that is transmitted by ducks, geese and other migrating waterfowl. It’s not a common virus. Indiana is one of two states where it has been detected.

The virus does not pose a threat to humans. 

Spears said, “Egg drop syndrome, there is still a lot that is not known about it, so there is a lot of research to be done. It is very uncommon in the United States. It has been found in Europe more.”

Once flocks tests positive, the farms are put into isolation until the virus runs its course. It is not fatal to birds, and it is rare for a farm to lose an entire flock to the virus.  

So far, no reports of the virus have come from back yard or hobby flocks in Indiana.

According to the state’s Board of Animal Health, Indiana is the second-largest producer of eggs in the country. The state’s average production exceeds 9 billion eggs a year. Not every egg ends up on a breakfast table; many are used to restore flocks.

The virus affects certain varieties of chickens more than others.

Spears described how the virus affects farms. “The birds will look healthy. The first signs are eggs. The eggs will get a pale appearance. This is more common in brown-egg-laying chickens, so the eggs will be pale and the eggs are very thin-shelled, or no shells at all.”

This virus is not connected to the avian flu virus that forced authorities to kill more than 170,000 turkeys on six farms in southern Indiana in February and March. “The viruses are different. They behave differently. They have different outcomes,” Spears said.