The Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia is recommending pigeon owners vaccinate their pigeons against pigeon paramyxovirus (PPMV).
WA acting chief veterinary officer Peter Morcombe said PPMV was a viral infection now widespread in domestic and feral pigeons in Victoria and recently found in four pigeon lofts in New South Wales.
“Birds infected with paramyxovirus show signs that include lethargy, thirst, unwillingness to eat or fly, discharge around the beak and eyes, circling, head flicking, leg and wing weakness and a very high death rate.
“PPMV has not been diagnosed in WA and the department has import permit requirements to
reduce the risk of the disease entering the state and spreading. However, there is a risk that PPMV will enter WA at some stage now that it is widespread in eastern Australia.
“The department recommends that pigeon owners prepare for this by vaccinating their birds so they are protected before the disease arrives,” Dr Morcombe said.
“There is no registered paramyxovirus vaccine for pigeons available in Australia. However,
Newcastle disease vaccines registered for poultry may be used in pigeons. These vaccines have
protected pigeons from PPMV in Victoria and overseas.”
The recommended approach is to give two doses of killed vaccine four to six weeks apart by subcutaneous injection followed by an annual booster.
“Vaccinated birds will not be fully protected until four to six weeks after the second vaccination,” Dr Morcombe said.
“If pigeon owners choose to vaccinate their birds, these vaccines should be used under veterinary guidance and only on healthy birds.”
To obtain a permit for Newcastle disease vaccine, complete an application form – search on
‘Newcastle disease’ at www.agric.wa.gov.au or contact biosecurity officer Trevor Fitzpatrick on (08) 9733 7720.
“If pigeon owners see signs of PPMV or increased death rates in pigeons or any poultry species, they should report it immediately to their veterinarian, the Department of Agriculture and Food duty pathologist on (08) 9368 3351, or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch hotline on 1800 675 888,” Dr Morcombe said.
“Confine the pigeons and do not move them until a diagnosis has been made.”
Biosecurity information to minimise the risk of disease entering or spreading in a pigeon loft can be found at www.daff.gov.au/birds