Poultry Keepers on Alert as Virus Spreads

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA - The current outbreak of avian paramyxovirus (PMV1) has been detected for the first time in racing pigeons, and the Department of Primary Industries has warned backyard poultry farmers to be on the alert for signs in their flocks.
calendar icon 14 September 2011
clock icon 4 minute read

Victoria's Acting Chief Veterinary Officer, Iain McLaren, said until now, the outbreak had been confined to flocks of 'fancy' pigeons.

He said the latest result was a timely reminder for all pigeon owners to protect their birds from the disease and that it would be prudent for racing and race related activities to cease.

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) staff have now placed 25 premises across Victoria under quarantine – 23 where PMV1 has been confirmed and two where it is suspected.

DPI field teams have made a total of 87 visits to properties to investigate the extent of the outbreak. It appears to be confined to the Greater Melbourne area and Shepparton/Tatura.

A meeting will be held at Attwood on Wednesday evening for invited representatives of pigeon racing groups and pigeon fancier groups to discuss the current situation and how to reduce the potential spread of PMV1 through the pigeon population.

Dr McLaren said: "Although there is no evidence that the virus has spread to other bird species, we strongly encourage all backyard and commercial bird and poultry owners to take responsible action."

He said the most important factor in controlling the outbreak was for owners to prevent contact with any other pigeons, both directly and indirectly.

He continued: "Movement of infected birds constitutes the highest risk spreading the disease. Owners should ensure their birds are physically separated from other people’s or wild birds, and the same goes for food and water supplies.

"Owners should also practise good hygiene if attending bird shows, limiting visitors to their birds and quarantining new birds on introduction to flocks. A strong detergent will kill the virus on contact.

"Other simple biosecurity measures include keeping equipment and poultry yards or aviaries clean and preventing contamination of food and water by faeces or other animal waste."

It is also important that bird owners report any groups of sick or dead birds to their local veterinarian or to the DPI Customer Service Centre on telephone 136 186.

Managing backyard poultry during virus outbreak

The current outbreak of avian paramyxovirus is still confined to pigeon flocks in Victoria.

The Department of Primary Industries says detection of this avian paramyxovirus in poultry would mean an outbreak of Newcastle disease. There is no evidence that this has happened.

Commercial poultry in Victoria are vaccinated against Newcastle disease.

Owners of backyard poultry are unlikely to have vaccinated birds so should minimise the risk of introducing disease by implementing biosecurity measures in their own backyards.

Dr McLaren said the most important factor was to prevent contact with other racing, fancy and wild pigeons, both directly and indirectly.

Movements of birds to and from known infected properties are being investigated to determine possible sources of infection and the extent of disease spread.

In rare instances humans can be infected and suffer headache and flu-like symptoms and/or develop mild conjunctivitis which persists for one or two days. Consult your doctor if you develop these symptoms after handling diseased birds.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.

Further Reading

- Find out more information on Newcastle disease by clicking here.
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