A standard approach to poultry disease investigation

Page last updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2018 - 9:17am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

This resource is a guide for veterinarians when investigating disease in poultry.

It covers base samples to be collected during any poultry disease investigation and specific additional samples to be collected according to the disease syndrome or suspected disease.

For the collection of post-mortem samples, please read this guide in conjunction with the chicken necropsy guide.

For any questions about sampling, please contact your local Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia (DPIRD) Field Veterinary Officer or the Animal Health Laboratories.

If avian influenza or exotic Newcastle disease are suspected, report the incident as soon as possible to your local DPIRD Field Veterinary Officer or call the emergency animal disease hotline on 1800 675 888. DAFWA will investigate these outbreaks.

In other incidents that meet the case definition for Newcastle disease (see Code of practice: managing the risk of Newcastle disease in Western Australia), report the incident and submit the samples specified in the Newcastle disease sample collection webpage.

Base sample set for poultry

Collect the following samples as part of any disease investigation in poultry. Transport samples as soon as possible to the laboratory at 4°C. Do not freeze samples.

The number of birds to sample depends on the context of the disease investigation and how many birds are available for post-mortem sampling.


  • Blood
    • 2 millilitres of blood from each bird (if possible), in a serum blood tube (red top)
    • If possible, hold at room temperature for 30 minutes–2 hours before refrigeration
  • Swabs
    • cloacal swab in viral transport medium (VTM).
    • choanal (oral) swab in VT
  • Faeces
    • fresh sample in a plain sample container.

For details on how to collect a cloacal and choanal swab, please see the Newcastle disease sample collection webpage.


  • Swabs
    • cloacal swab in VTM
    • choanal (oral) swab in VTM.
  • Gut content
    • faeces or cloacal/colonic content.
  • Fresh tissue samples in separate sterile sample containers
    • brain
    • lung
    • liver
    • spleen
    • bursa (if present)
    • swabs of any gross lesions in Amies transport medium.
  • Fixed tissue samples (pool all samples in a specimen container in formalin with 10:1 formalin:tissue ratio)
    • brain
    • lung
    • liver
    • spleen
    • kidney
    • heart
    • proventriculus
    • ventriculus
    • duodenum
    • pancreas
    • jejunum
    • ileum
    • colon
    • caecae
    • bursa (if present)
    • any gross lesion.

Contact information

Emily Glass
+61 (0)8 9363 4054