Between 2012 and 2014, 141 chickens from 10 organic layer flocks with a history of severe drop in egg production (up to 40%) and slight increased mortality (up to 1% per week) were submitted to the Avian Health and Food Safety Laboratory (Puyallup, WA). At necropsy, the most common finding was pinpoint white foci on the liver and regressed ova without any other remarkable lesions. Histologically, there was multifocal mild-to-severe acute necrotizing hepatitis present. No significant bacteria were recovered from liver samples, and tests for mycotoxins were negative. Twenty-six serum samples from four affected flocks tested were positive for avian hepatitis E virus (HEV) immunoglobulin Y antibodies. Avian HEV RNA was detected in 10 livers of chickens from two different affected flocks. The avian HEV was characterized by sequencing and determined to belong to genotype 2. The diagnosis of a clinical manifest HEV was based solely on the demonstration of specific viral RNA and the absence of other causative agents in samples from flocks, as the clinical sings and pathologic lesions were atypical.
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Vol. 59 • No. 3