The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has restricted aggregation of domesticated pigeons by banning sales, shows and racing within NSW due to a second confirmed case of pigeon paramyxovirus in Sydney that follows the first reported case in May.
“The case was reported by the owner of a pigeon loft and confirmed by a virologist at DPI’s Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute on 27th June,” DPI Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Sally Spence said.
“The affected loft contains around 60 birds – six of these have died and a further six are showing signs of the virus, which include increased thirst, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and reluctance to move and fly.
“The infected birds participated in a race on 16th and 17th June, from Mudgee to Sydney, and there is a high possibility that other birds in the race have been infected or exposed to infection.
“Our aim is to prevent inadvertent infection by apparently healthy birds carrying the virus at places where pigeons might aggregate.
“Following consultation with industry groups, the decision has been made to ban all pigeon sales, shows and racing until owners have had a chance to vaccinate their birds.”
Dr Spence said that although the disease is serious for pigeons, it appears to be less damaging in the affected loft compared to the first Victorian outbreak.
“There are no obvious connections to Victoria, where the disease was first identified in August 2011, and clinical signs appear to be milder and cause lower mortality than we have seen before,“ Dr Spence said.
“The biosecurity controls we are putting in place are the same as those employed by Victorian authorities and should contain the disease until people can protect their pigeons: it’s a minor short-term inconvenience for a major long-term gain.
“I urge all pigeon owners to consult their private veterinarian on using poultry vaccine to minimise the risk of infection.
“Restrictions will remain in place for at least 6-8 weeks, until vaccinations have had a chance to take effect and DPI and industry leaders are satisfied that people have had an opportunity to protect their pigeons.
“Following this period, depending on take-up of vaccinations and pending any further cases, the controls will be reviewed with a view to easing or lifting restrictions altogether.
“If pigeons show any signs of the virus, owners should seek advice from their private veterinarian immediately. In cases where the virus is identified, the infected loft or property is quarantined and DPI will help owners to manage the health of their pigeons.”
As wild pigeons have occasionally been infected in Victoria, if people see wild pigeons that have died they can report them to Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.
More information on the pigeon paramyxovirus, is available at http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/biosecurity