Can Guinea Fowl Get Marek’s Disease? (Explained)

by Chukay Alex
Updated on

Guinea fowl is a very popular poultry breed. This fowl is also known as the Red Cap and the Capon.

The red cap is known to have a low resistance to Marek’s disease. The Guinea fowl is also known to have a genetic predisposition for Marek’s disease.

This disease is known to be contagious to humans. It is also a virus. The disease is also known to be passed from birds to humans.

The disease is caused by the Marek disease virus. Birds with the disease show several symptoms.

Here, you will be able to learn all that Marek’s disease entails. From the cause to how it transmits.

You will also learn the symptoms and signs and how to prevent and treat Marek’s disease.

Let’s begin!

What is Marek’s Disease?

Can Guinea Fowl Get Marek's Disease

Marek’s Disease is one of the most common chicken diseases. Marek’s Disease is a type of herpes virus that does not affect humans but infects birds for life.

This virus causes Marek’s disease, or fowl paralysis, in chickens. It can cause death or severe production loss in both commercial and backyard poultry.

The disease affects a large number of nerves and can lead to tumors in major internal organs, among other things.

Not all birds will show symptoms of Marek’s disease, depending on the strain of the disease and the bird’s breed.

Unaware of this, it’s important to know that once your flock is infected, it’s at risk of being decimated.

Another disease similar to Marek’s is Lymphoid leukosis, it is a different viral disease that also causes tumors in organs, but does not cause paralysis in patients.

Affected birds are usually older than 16 weeks, whereas Marek’s disease is more common in younger chickens.

Related: Here is an article I wrote on can guineas eat sunflower seeds?

Marek’s Disease Transmission

Through a flock, Marek’s Disease is easily transmitted to other animals. When a bird inhales the dander from an infected bird, the strain is transmitted.

As the virus is constantly shed by infected Guinea fowls, an infected Guinea fowl coop can continue to be contaminated long after the birds have been removed.

To prevent the virus from spreading, it’s important to know the signs that your birds are infected.

This disease cannot be transmitted vertically, from the mother guineas to the teet.

You don’t contract Marek’s disease from the parent Guinea, but from the teets, after it was hatched because the teet came into contact with Marek’s after it was born.


Marek’s disease must be diagnosed by a veterinarian. Diagnoses are confirmed in most cases by a combination of clinical signs and postmortem findings.

Nerves such as the sciatic nerve commonly enlarge after death. There may be changes in one or more internal organs.

Symptoms and Signs of Marek’s disease

Many birds can be saved by recognizing the symptoms and signs of Marek’s Disease.

As long as you catch it early enough, the majority of your flock should be unaffected. From new symptoms you may notice on the outside:

Symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, anemia, dehydration, and, in some cases, diarrhea.

Paralysis, affecting the legs, wings, and neck, in particular, Tumors can develop in your bird’s feather follicles, as well as on its internal organs.

Pupils that are dilated, gray iris, or vision impairment

Among the internal organs affected by Marek’s disease are the ovaries and liver.

Hepatocellular and splenic swelling is reported, but no tumors are visible.

It has been reported that some birds die without showing any tumor signs of illness.

There are other diseases or health problems that may mimic the symptoms of Marek’s disease, so you must isolate any bird exhibiting these symptoms and consult with a veterinarian.

Also check out this article I wrote on do guineas need a coop?

Chances of curing Marek’s disease

If your guinea fowl contracts Marek’s Disease, there is no cure or treatment available for the disease.

Because Marek’s Disease can be spread through contact, you may not be aware that you have an infected guinea.

Infected guineas may show no symptoms, or they may show only a few symptoms.

The chances of curing Marek’s disease are slim to none

Do Guinea Fowls Live with Marek’s Disease?

The disease typically manifests between the ages of 6 and 30 weeks. Marek’s Disease, however, can also affect older birds.

Marek’s Disease is transmitted to birds through the inhalation of virus-laden dander.

As a purified virus, the virus is easily destroyed, but it can survive for years in danger.

An infected bird, depending on its age and health, can live a relatively normal life up until the disease progresses.

Quality of life will be greatly reduced if tumors develop on vital internal organs or paralysis sets in.

Is it possible to prevent Marek’s disease in your poultry?

Before Marek’s Disease can infect your flock, you must stop it in its tracks.

For at least a week after vaccination, your guineas should not be exposed to other birds until the vaccine has taken effect, which can take up to two weeks in some cases.

It will prevent birds from developing symptoms and greatly reduce the spread of the disease if they are vaccinated.

However, vaccination against Marek’s Disease does not completely protect against the disease.

Additionally, you should practice good biosecurity in your guineas coops to prevent the disease from spreading between sick and healthy birds.

Cleaning guinea areas, changing clothes when going to different guinea fowl locations, controlling rodent and pest populations, and not immediately adding new guineas to your current flock are all examples of how to maintain a healthy chicken flock.

Not only do you have the answers but you have also been given the signs to look out for, the symptoms, prevention, and treatment.

Though no cure has been found, you can prevent your guinea from Marek’s disease.

Can guinea fowl get Marek’s disease? Yes, they can. But knowing what to expect about Marek’s disease will help keep your guineas alive and well.

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About the author

Chukay Alex

Chukay is a season writer and farmer who enjoys farming and growing plants in his backyard farm. When he is not farming you can find him at the nearest lawn tennis court, hitting a mean backhand down the line.


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