New paramyxovirus in pigeons
Released/reviewed: 6 Nov 2012
Report suspect cases
Avian Paramyxovirus is a notifiable emergency animal disease. If you suspect your birds may have Avian Paramyxovirus call your private veterinarian immediately. The vet will notify the Technical Specialist Poultry or an inspector with NSW DPI or the local Livestock Health and Pest Authority if they consider signs are suggestive of Avian Paramyxovirus.
If your veterinarian is unavailable call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.
- on avian health
- on the current situation in Victoria
- Information for Vets: Vaccination of birds against Avian Paramyxovirus (100Kb, )
- Factsheet: Paramyxovirus advice for bird owners
- Handout: Vaccination against Avian Paramyxovirus (52Kb, )
- Pigeon owners urged to be vigilant against virus [5 July 2012]
- Restrictions on pigeon movements due to virus [29 June 2012]
- New pigeon virus confirmed in NSW [English] [Arabic] [4 May 2012]
- NSW bans pigeon movements from Victoria [15 Sep 2011]
- Protect your flock from new pigeon virus [English] [Arabic] [15 Sep 2011]
- Restrict movements of pigeons as new virus hits Victoria [7 Sep 2011]
Current situationPigeon paramyxovirus (PPMV1) was first detected in a hobby pigeon flock in Western Sydney in May 2012. This followed numerous cases of the virus in domestic and feral pigeons in Victoria starting in August 2011.
Further outbreaks of PPMV1 in NSW were reported in late June/July 2012 resulting in a total of 10 confirmed cases in pigeon lofts in Sydney. The confirmed lofts were associated with racing, group exercise (tossing), purchasing pigeons from an auction, movement from Victoria and in 2 cases the circumstances of acquiring the infection remain unclear.
In October 2012 three more cases were diagnosed in Sydney. No direct links appear between the new cases and previous cases. The birds in all 3 lofts had not been adequately vaccinated and new birds had been introduced into each loft before clinical signs were seen.
PPMV1 has been detected in a small number of feral pigeons in the Sydney area.
The movement of pigeons from Victoria into NSW was banned in late 2011 and a Control Order was put in place on 28 June 2012 which banned all pigeon shows, racing and gathering.
Following good uptake of vaccination by pigeon owners the restrictions on movements, gatherings, races and shows of pigeons in NSW and the introduction of pigeons from Victoria were lifted on 13/8/12.
In October 2012 movement restrictions on pigeons moving from NSW to South Australia have also been revoked.
Restrictions are still in place on the introductions of pigeons and their equipment from NSW to Queensland, WA and Tasmania.
Effective protection requires owners to keep up the vaccination program in young birds and in new introductions to the loft. An annual booster is also recommended.
About pigeon paramyxovirus in NSWWhile movement restrictions will no longer apply after 13/8/2012, the disease remains a notifiable disease. Anybody suspecting or diagnosing it must notify NSW DPI.
Clinical signs in the Sydney cases are not as pronounced as those seen in Victorian. Affected birds are reluctant to leave the loft when released for exercise, appear a bit off-colour, have a reduced appetite and increased thirst.
The reported mortality rates in adult pigeons in Victorian lofts were between 50 and 100% and in NSW they range between 10% - 40%.
Mortality occurs within a day or two after the appearance of clinical signs. Some birds have been reported to recover.
One of the most prominent sign in a loft affected with PPMV1 is the greenish watery splashes of dropping on the floor of the loft.
The incubation period (the period from exposure to the virus and appearance of clinical signs) that was observed in NSW was as long as 4 weeks. Therefore, birds that appear normal may already be infected and able to spread the infection. To reduce the risk vaccination and effective biosecurity are recommended.
Reducing the risk of the disease
The ultimate practical tool available to reduce the risk of acquiring the disease is vaccination. Two applications of inactivated chicken paramyxovirus vaccine, 4 weeks apart, has been demonstrated in trials in Victoria to induce a satisfactory level of antibodies to enable protection against the disease. Introductions of new pigeons to existing lofts should be delayed until all birds in the loft have been fully vaccinated and the newly introduced birds, if not already vaccinated, should be vaccinated as soon as possible.
Biosecurity recommendations for pigeon fanciers
Effective vaccination in association with biosecurity will provide an effective barrier against infection. Means of spread and introduction of infection include:
- Contact with infected birds (including strays or feral birds), (This may take place during the incubation period before clinical signs appear).
- Contact with contaminated travelling boxes or transporters that have not been cleaned and disinfected,
- Contact with birds or animals that can carry the virus externally on feathers, skin etc
- Shared drinking water in lofts and air space in transporters,
- Virus carried on the clothes, hands and feet of loft visitors.
- Under favourable conditions windborne transmission of the virus can occur over significant distances.
Protect your flock by:
- Vaccinating all the pigeons in your loft
- Not trading or introducing new birds without careful assessment,
- Isolating and closely monitoring introduced birds or birds that have been to races or shows for 28 days (feed and water these isolated birds last and wash and change afterwards)
- Disinfecting equipment used to house, transport of feed or water birds from outside your flock or birds that have travelled to shows,
- Preventing stray birds entry to your loft,
- Minimising visits to your loft,
- Avoiding visiting other lofts as much as possible.
- Disinfecting boots and washing hands and cloth if you visit other lofts or handle pigeons of unknown status.
General information on paramyxovirus in pigeonsPPMV1 is a viral disease of pigeons that does not respond to treatment although provision of supportive treatment as recommended by a veterinarian may reduce the severity of the disease and increase the chances of survival. The first signs are usually reluctance to fly, birds feathers appear fluffed up and increased thirst and loss or reduced appetite are evident. Diarrhoea is common.
Nervous signs or respiratory signs have not been seen in the affected flocks in NSW although they were prominent in Victoria. The nervous signs seen in Victoria include: trembling of the wings and head, tumbling on landing, partial paralysis of the wings and legs and twisting of the neck (torticollis). In some cases, birds attempting to feed may be unable to pick up grain.
Recovery of affected birds has been observed in NSW.
Similar symptoms may be produced by other pigeon diseases e.g. Herpes virus and Salmonella.
What to do if your birds are sickPigeon paramyxovirus is a notifiable disease in NSW and owners and veterinarians are obliged to report it. Anyone concerned about the health of their pigeons or other birds should contact their veterinarian. The Department of Primary Industries will pay for testing at the laboratory.
Suspicion can be reported to the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888 or to the Senior Veterinarian (Avian Health) on 02 4640 6402.
Does the disease affect humans?
Human infection with Pigeon Paramyxovirus has not been reported and human infection with other avian paramyxovirusmyxoviruses are rare and usually occur only in people who have very close direct contact with infected birds. The virus causes mild, short-term conjunctivitis.
Does the disease affect other birds?
Paramyxoviruses are generally capable of infecting many species of birds. However, different bird species vary in their resistance to the disease. Victorian authorities have detected this virus in a dead sparrow hawk and a dead spotted turtle dove. No clinical signs have been reported in poultry and aviary birds in contact with infected pigeons in Australia.
Are my pets at risk?
There is no threat to dogs, cats and other non-avian species that come into contact with infected pigeons.