Avian paramyxovirus

Alert

Avian paramyxovirus is category 1 restricted matter.

Under Queensland legislation, if you suspect the presence of this disease in any species of animal, you must report it to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or contact the Emergency Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Avian paramyxovirus (type 1) is a viral infection that affects pigeons and is present in most countries. It is a serious disease because it can spread rapidly and cause high rates of pigeon illness and death.

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

Cause

Avian paramyxovirus type 1 (APMV1) is not related to bird flu.

Other names

  • Avian paramyxovirus type 1
  • Pigeon paramyxovirus type 1

Distribution

In Australia, avian paramyxovirus has been confirmed in racing, fancy and feral pigeons in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania. The virus is now considered to have become established in Australia, and spread into and within Queensland is inevitable.

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

Affected animals

  • pigeons
  • poultry
  • birds

Symptoms

Clinical signs include:

  • vomiting or regurgitating
  • diarrhoea
  • lethargy
  • circling, head flicking, twisting the neck and other neurological signs
  • laboured breathing
  • runny eyes and beak
  • sick birds can die within 3 days.

Many other bird diseases can cause similar signs and laboratory analysis will be required to confirm avian paramyxovirus.

If you see unusual signs in pigeons or other birds, or a number die within a short time, immediately seek veterinary advice and report the incident to either:

  • Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 (business hours)
  • the Emergency Animal Disease Watch hotline (after hours) on 1800 675 888.

How it is spread

Infected birds usually spread avian paramyxovirus when moving between lofts. Infected birds may shed the virus in their faeces, contaminating the environment (including feed and water). Transmission can occur through direct contact with faeces and respiratory discharges or contaminated food, water, equipment and human clothing.

Risk period

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

Monitoring and action

Diagnosis of avian paramyxovirus requires submission of samples from a dead or live affected bird to a laboratory.

If avian paramyxovirus is confirmed after laboratory diagnosis, it is a requirement that Biosecurity Queensland are informed to ensure notification of avian committees in order to increase awareness of maintaining adequate biosecurity to prevent spread in their aviaries.

Control

Prevention

It is important to have good biosecurity measures in place to prevent disease. To reduce the risk, you can:

  • prevent contact with other racing, fancy and wild pigeons
  • restrict contact between pet birds, poultry and wild birds
  • ensure all equipment and areas where birds are kept clean
  • prevent contamination of food and water by faeces or other animal waste
  • practise good hygiene when attending bird shows or events
  • limit visitors to your birds
  • ensure that new birds are sourced from lofts with a low risk of being infected
  • isolate new birds before introducing them to your flock or loft.

Pigeon show, exhibition and race officials should consider minimum health requirements for entrants based on vaccination status and freedom from signs of disease.

Vaccination

There is currently no registered vaccine for avian paramyxovirus for pigeons in Australia. The Newcastle disease vaccine registered for use in poultry can provide an adjunct to biosecurity in minimising the potential impact of spread of infection. As the use of this vaccination in pigeons is off-label, it must be done only under the direction of a veterinarian.