Pigeon Paramyxovirus - Information for Veterinarians
A pigeon paramyxovirus not previously reported in Australia has been detected in hobby pigeons on a number of properties in Victoria since August 2011.
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has undertaken investigations to determine possible links between the properties and to detect other affected properties.
Affected pigeon flocks have experienced high mortality associated with lethargy, gastrointestinal and neurological signs. Sick birds have been lethargic, not flying, vomiting a white tinged fluid and then dying within three days. A large proportion of the birds in affected lofts have died in this manner. The virus is also killing feral pigeon populations.
There have been single cases in both a collared sparrow hawk and a spotted turtle dove identified in Melbourne.
To date, infection has been contained largely to Metropolitan Melbourne and immediate surrounds.
There are currently no reported unusual disease events in Australian commercial or backyard poultry flocks.
Investigation of disease
If you notice the above clinical signs or high death rates in your clients’ pigeons, poultry or other birds, please call DPI on 1800 675 888. Pigeon owners will be contacted and information about the disease event will be recorded and advice on disease containment provided. Information on deaths in feral pigeons should also be provided to DPI. In addition deaths of other wild birds and poultry particularly from areas where there has been recorded deaths in feral pigeons due to PMV1 identified or reductions in populations of feral pigeons noted should be reported to DPI. This reporting is essential for DPI to accurately record the movement of PMV1 and any involvement of other avian species.
If you wish to collect samples for laboratory confirmation of the infection, instructions on sample collection and transport are available.
Veterinarians should consider biosecurity risks for their practice when investigating such cases.
Recommendations to owners
Owners of diseased pigeons should be encouraged to confine the affected flock to the premises.
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.
Vaccination should be considered in all domestic pigeons. Given the endemic nature of the disease within the feral population around greater Melbourne, pigeon owners need to consider all options to protect their birds against paramyxovirus. See ‘vaccination’ below for more details.
The National Farm Biosecurity Manual for Poultry Production provides advice on biosecurity standards relevant to all avian industry sectors, and includes information on sound everyday biosecurity practices, and a range of useful resources and links. The document is freely available on the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) website at www.daff.gov.au/birds or hard copies can be obtained by contacting DAFF by telephone on (02) 6272 5283. This may be of use to your clients.
There is no currently registered vaccine for use in pigeons.
The CCEAD (Consultative Committee for Emergency Animal Disease has recently reviewed what other options are available. The CCEAD has advised that the ‘off label’ use of poultry Newcastle vaccine should be considered by pigeon owners in consultation with their Veterinarian. In Victoria, legislation requires that vaccine is used by or under the supervision of a veterinarian.
For more information on vaccination
If you have any questions please contact DPI on 1800 675 888.