Fact Sheet for Bird Owners
Avian paramyxovirus strains are generally capable of infecting a wide range of avian (bird) species. To date pigeon paramyxovirus has been restricted mostly to hobby and feral pigeons. There have been single cases identified in a collared sparrow hawk and spotted turtle dove. There is no evidence that this disease has spread to poultry. Chickens exposed in the field have not developed disease. Furthermore experimentally infected chickens have remained healthy and did not show any signs of disease.
If this avian paramyxovirus were to infect poultry it could potentially cause Newcastle disease. Commercial poultry in Victoria are vaccinated against Newcastle disease and properties implement good biosecurity practices so greatly reducing their risk. Owners of backyard poultry are unlikely to have vaccinated birds so are advised to follow good biosecurity practices.
There is no registered vaccine for use in pigeons in Australia but Newcastle disease poultry vaccines may offer some protection (see link below).
What are the clinical signs?
Signs of pigeon paramyxovirus include those below, but not all signs will be seen in all birds:
- high morbidity (large numbers affected) and high mortality (death) rate
- loss of appetite
- respiratory signs
- gastrointestinal signs including regurgitation and diarrhoea
- neurological signs such as head shaking
Affected birds often die within 72 hours.
Does the disease affect humans?
Human infection with this virus is extremely rare and usually occurs only in people who have close direct contact with infected birds. The virus causes only mild, short-term conjunctivitis or influenza-like symptoms in humans. If you experience these symptoms, contact your doctor.
Reporting sick or dead birds
It is also important that bird owners report any groups of sick or dead birds to their local veterinarian or to the Department of Primary Industries on the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.
Owners of birds can minimise the risk of introducing disease by implementing good biosecurity measures, including preventing contact with other racing, fancy and wild pigeons, both directly and indirectly, for example via feed and water.
Other simple biosecurity measures that will help prevent disease outbreaks include:
- keeping equipment and poultry yards or aviaries clean
- cleaning and disinfecting common tools, footwear and clothing between aviaries or properties
- restricting contact between pet birds and wild birds including not participating in races, shows or exhibitions without consideration of vaccination
- limiting visitors to your birds
- preventing contamination of food and water by faeces or other animal waste
- quarantining new birds
Isolation and disinfection
By law, flocks suspected or known to be infected with PPMV1 must be kept isolated from other birds. In lofts where PPMV1 is suspected there must be no movements of birds on or off the property while there is evidence of clinical disease or deaths in pigeons. Loft flying should also cease during this time.
Detergent is suitable for disinfection of cages and lofts. Thoroughly clean away any organic material such as faeces/dirt/litter and allow the area to soak with soapy water for 10 minutes.Further information on isolation and disinfection can be found here
There currently is no registered vaccine in Australia for protecting pigeons against PPMV1.
Pigeon paramyxovirus is closely related to the virus that causes Newcastle disease in poultry. Registered Newcastle disease poultry vaccines are available in Australia. Vaccination of pigeons with Newcastle disease poultry vaccines has regularly occurred in other countries during outbreaks of pigeons paramyxovirus disease. Such poultry vaccines have been observed to be safe when used “off label” to vaccinate pigeons. “Off label” usage means that the product is not registered to be used in that particular species.
There is then no efficacy nor safety data for Poultry Newcastle disease vaccines in pigeons. Veterinary advice should be sought concerning vaccination of pigeons.For futher information on vaccination see the vaccination page