Avian paramyxovirus in pigeons

Avian paramyxovirus is a notifiable disease

If you suspect APMV1, contact Biosecurity Queensland immediately.

Call us 13 25 23
Emergency Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888

Overview

Name

Avian paramyxovirus

Description

Avian paramyxovirus has been detected in captive and wild pigeons in Victoria since August 2011 and in captive pigeons in New South Wales since May 2012.

Avian paramyxovirus is not bird flu.

Paramyxovirus strains are generally capable of affecting other avian species including poultry.

Distribution

Strains of the paramyxovirus in pigeons are present in most countries outside Australia.

In Australia, avian paramyxovirus has been confirmed in racing, fancy and feral pigeons in Victoria and New South Wales.

The virus is now considered to have become established in Australia, and spread into and within Queensland is inevitable.

Symptoms

Affected pigeon flocks have experienced high mortality associated with lethargy, gastrointestinal signs (vomiting and diarrhoea) and neurological signs (circling, head flicking, twisted necks). Sick birds can die within three days.

If you see unusual signs in pigeons or other birds, or a number die within a short time, you should immediately seek veterinary advice and report the incident to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 (business hours) or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch hotline (after hours) on 1800 675 888.

Spread

Typically, the spread of avian paramyxovirus between lofts has been from the movement of birds.

Avian paramyxovirus is transmitted most often by direct contact with diseased or carrier birds. Infected birds may shed the virus in their faeces, contaminating the environment (including feed and water).

Transmission can then occur through direct contact with faeces and respiratory discharges or contaminated food, water, equipment and human clothing.

Avian paramyxovirus can survive for several weeks in the environment, especially in cool weather.

Control

Restrictions on the entry to Queensland of pigeons, pigeon eggs or pigeon fittings (such as cages and egg boxes) from Victoria or New South Wales have been revoked, with effect from 17 December 2012. There is no requirement for a permit to introduce pigeons to Queensland.

In assuming responsibility for protecting their pigeons, keepers should consider implementing biosecurity measures and vaccination for their birds.

Owners of birds, including commercial poultry owners and backyard enthusiasts, should minimise the risk of introducing disease by implementing good biosecurity measures, including preventing contact with other racing, fancy and wild pigeons.

Pigeon shows, exhibitions and races should consider specifying minimum health requirements for entry to events based on vaccination status and freedom from signs of disease.

Simple biosecurity measures to help prevent disease occurring are outlined on the Australian Government's Department of Agriculture website. They include:

  • keeping all equipment and areas where birds are kept clean
  • restricting contact between pet birds, poultry and wild birds
  • preventing contamination of food and water by faeces or other animal waste
  • practising good hygiene when attending bird shows or events
  • limiting visitors to your birds, and
  • isolating new birds before introducing them to your flock/loft.

Owners of commercial flocks should ensure they practice good biosecurity and that all flock disease vaccinations are up to date.

While there is currently no registered vaccine for use in pigeons in Australia, there are vaccination options available that could help to prevent spread and minimise the impact of infection.

Pigeon owners are urged to contact their private veterinarian about vaccination options.

The disease in people

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.

Last updated 24 April 2015