Pigeon Paramyxovirus - Information for Veterinarians
Avian Paramyxovirus type 1 in pigeons (PPMV1) is a viral infection that is present in most countries that can spread rapidly and cause high rates of pigeon illness and death.
The first Australian detection was in Victoria in August 2011. It has since spread and become endemic in domestic and feral pigeon population in Victoria, NSW, Tasmania and South Australia. The disease was also reported to affect a spotted turtle dove (an introduced species) and a predatory sparrow hawk (a native species).
Paramyxovirus strains are generally capable of affecting other avian species including poultry. But so far, there has not been any detection of natural infection of poultry.
Human infection with this virus is rare and usually occurs only in people who have close, direct contact with infected birds. The virus causes mild flu-like symptoms.
Avian paramyxovirus type 1 is a very serious disease that can kill up to 100% of pigeons in some lofts. Some of the signs of PPMV1infection include lethargy, vomiting or regurgitation, green diarrhoea, twisting of the neck, circling, head flicking, laboured breathing and runny eyes and beak. Sick birds can die within three days. The infection spreads easily between birds and there is no specific treatment.
Infected birds may shed the virus in their faeces and other discharges, contaminating the environment (including feed, water, equipment and human clothing) and allowing transmission to other birds. Avian paramyxovirus 1 can survive for several weeks in the environment, especially in cool weather.
The spread of PPMV1is typically due to the movement of birds, but it can be carried in eggs or on equipment used with pigeons, as well as on people and their clothing.
The clinical signs and gross pathological changes, if any, are not specific to avian paramyxovirus. Many other bird diseases can cause similar signs.
Confirmation of PPMV1 requires laboratory analysis.
Any suspected dead bird or organs of suspected bird should be forward to AgriBio state laboratory, located at La Trobe's Melbourne campus in Bundoora.
A person who suspects that birds may have PPMV1 should immediately contact a veterinarian and phone our Customer Service Centre on 136 186.
Protection from spread
In assuming responsibility for protecting their pigeons, keepers should consider implementing biosecurity measures and vaccination for their birds.
Pigeon owners´ primary defence against PPMV1 is to prevent the introduction of the disease into their loft by the implementation of the following procedures:
- Clean and disinfect footwear and wash your hands and clothes after visiting other birds
- Keep lofts and equipment clean
- Disinfect equipment used to house, transport, feed and water other birds
* Prevent wild birds and feral pigeons (and their droppings) from having contact with your pigeons or contaminating their feed or water
- Quarantine for at least 2 weeks any new birds or birds returning from a show or a race
- Limit unnecessary visitors to your pigeons
There is no currently registered PPMV1 vaccine for use in pigeons in Australia.
However Newcastle disease vaccines registered for use in chickens are available for 'off label' use in pigeons with the written instruction of a veterinarian, would provide adequate protection against the disease and minimise the potential impact of spread of infection.
PPMV1 is Notifiable disease in Victoria and a person who suspects that birds may have PPMV1 must immediately notify an Inspector of Livestock at the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) within 12 hours of suspicion or confirmation of the disease. This can be done by calling the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.
If you have any further questions, please contact us.