Avian Paramyxovirus in Pigeons (APMV1)

Avian Paramyxovirus (APMV1) is also sometimes referred to as Pigeon Paramyxo virus (PPMV1).

It has been detected in Victoria, NSW, Tasmania (In June 2013) and WA (In Nov 2015).

In Victoria and NSW, the disease has been found in both kept and feral pigeons as well as a very small number of cases in native species.

In the Tasmanian outbreak, only kept pigeons were affected.  This outbreak was controlled by a combination of quarantining affected flocks, promoting vaccination of pigeon flocks and a temporary suspension of pigeon races and shows. The conditions for importing pigeons and pigeon eggs from the mainland were not changed.

There has been no evidence of APMV1 in commercial or backyard poultry flocks.

Affected pigeon flocks may experience varying rates of sickness and mortality although high mortalities (most pigeons dying) has occurred. Clinical signs associated with APMV-1 in pigeons include lethargy, gastrointestinal and neurological signs. Sick birds are lethargic, unable to fly, and may vomit a white tinged fluid with death ensuing after three days. Some pigeons do recover but may continue spreading the virus for some weeks thereafter.

Anyone suspecting disease due to avian paramyxovirus in their pigeons should report the matter to DPIPWE on 03 6233 6875 or the Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888.

Vaccination of Pigeons in Tasmania for APMV1

There is no registered vaccine for avian paramyxovirus (APMV1) for use in pigeons in Australia.

However inactivated Newcastle disease vaccine may give some protection against APMV1. The vaccine's primary value is in reducing the risk of avian paramyxovirus in a whole population – in other words achieving sufficient flock immunity so that the virus literally runs out of hosts to infect.

Vaccination played a significant role in helping control the APMV1 incursion in Tasmania in mid 2013.  Another key factor was that pigeon clubs suspended racing and shows until they were satisfied that all birds had been vaccinated against APMV1 and that they had developed immunity.

Vaccination is not a substitute for good biosecurity – pigeon owners are strongly advised to maintain a high level of vigilance with regard to introducing birds and eggs into their pigeon populations – whether vaccine is used or not.

No vaccine is perfect. The vaccines considered most useful in combating APMV1 will not stop pigeons becoming infected but clinical disease and virus shedding is expected to be significantly reduced. This latter aspect slows the spread of the virus.

The recommended vaccine program involves 2 doses of inactivated Newcastle Disease vaccine injected under the skin several 4 weeks apart, then a booster shot annually. It is considered that it takes at least 4 weeks for useful immunity to develop to the second shot of vaccine.  Only healthy pigeons in healthy flocks should be vaccinated.  It is important to vaccinate all the pigeons in a loft to maximise protection of the flock.

Anyone interested in vaccinating their pigeons should consult their veterinarian as there is no efficacy or safety data available for vaccine use in pigeons. On 3 April 2012, a general permit was issued that allows the vaccination of domestic pigeons with inactivated Newcastle disease vaccine.

No vaccine can be expected to be effective if the bird is not healthy when vaccinated. Vaccination will not stop already infected birds getting sick. Therefore vaccination should be carried out:

  • according to veterinary advice – (the veterinarian does not have to administer the vaccine),
  • to all birds that are suitable in the loft – (not just the ones racing or being shown) AND
  • time must be allowed for immunity to build up before exposing birds to others of unknown disease status (at least 4 weeks).

Anyone suspecting disease due to avian paramyxovirus in their pigeons should report the matter to DPIPWE on 03 6165 3263 or the Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888.

Restrictions apply to the importation of pigeons and fertile pigeon eggs from, or back from, mainland Australia. Please refer to the Quarantine web page.


See also: Biosecurity, Poultry and Pet Birds


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