PPMV1 in Australia
PPMV1 was first detected in pigeon lofts in the Melbourne area in 2011. It was subsequently found in several regions of the greater Melbourne area in both domesticated and wild pigeons. Further cases have since been reported in NSW in domesticated pigeons, as well as in a small number of wild pigeons in the Sydney area. A case was reported in Tasmania in June 2013.
In response to the initial detection of PPMV1 in Victoria in 2011, PPMV1 was declared a reportable disease in WA and DPIRD implemented import permit requirements for pigeons coming into WA. These measures were taken to reduce the likelihood of spread of the disease into WA while further research was done on the disease, and while pigeon owners took measures to minimise the chance of disease entry into their flocks through vaccination and improving their biosecurity standards.
In 2013, when the disease was known to pose little risk to wild birds or the commercial poultry industry, and when industry consultation showed bird owners had had a sufficient opportunity to vaccinate their birds against PPMV1, the import permit requirements were lifted.
Signs of PPMV 1
PPMV1 is a contagious viral disease which typically affects high numbers of pigeons within a loft. Death rates seen in cases in Victoria were 50-100%, while in NSW the disease appeared to be much milder with death rates of 5-40%.
The signs of PPMV1 are very similar to Newcastle disease. Any signs of PPMV1 and Newcastle disease must be reported to DPIRD or the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888.
Early signs of PPMV1 may include:
- reluctance to fly
- ruffled feathers
- increased thirst
- loss of appetite.
These signs typically worsen within 72 hours to include:
- difficulty breathing
- neurological signs including trembling of the wings and head, tumbling on landing, paralysis of the wings and legs and twisting of the neck
How does PPMV1 spread?
PPMV1 spreads easily between pigeons. Infected birds excrete the virus through their faeces, as well as other bodily discharges. Other birds become infected through direct contact with an infected bird, or contamination of the environment, feed, water, equipment and human clothing. The virus may remain infectious in the environment for several weeks.
There is no specific treatment for PPMV1. However, supportive therapy may increase survival rates. Contact your private veterinarian to discuss treatment options.
Preventing PPMV1 in your flock
Pigeon owners are responsible for preventing PPMV1 in their flocks. Prevention can be achieved through vaccination and sound biosecurity practices.
A PPMV1 vaccine for pigeons was registered in Australia in 2016. For more information about vaccination against Newcastle disease, contact your veterinarian.
Vaccination is not a substitute for sound biosecurity practices, so owners should review and/or strengthen their current biosecurity measures to minimise the chance of disease entering their flock.
Comprehensive bird biosecurity guidelines are available on the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ bird biosecurity webpage.
It is recommended that WA bird owners:
- quarantine new birds (not just doves or pigeons) before introducing them to the existing flock
- feed and clean quarantined birds after the other birds
- prevent contamination of food and water by faeces or other animal waste
- buy birds from a breeder with a known bird health status
- buy healthy-looking birds and avoid buying them from markets
- disinfect equipment used to house, transport or feed or water birds from outside your flock or birds that have travelled to shows
- restrict contact between pet birds and wild birds
- if attending bird events, biosecurity guidelines should be followed, as set out in Biosecurity guidelines for bird events in Western Australia
- participation in races, shows or exhibitions should include consideration of the vaccination status of all birds.
What do I do if I suspect PPMV1 in my flock?
PPMV1 is a reportable disease in Western Australia. Report signs of PPMV1 immediately to your private veterinarian, your local DPIRD veterinarian or the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888. Livestock Biosecurity contacts can be found on the Livestock Biosecurity contacts webpage.
Keep all birds confined and do not sell or move birds to another flock until a diagnosis has been made and veterinary advice has been provided.
Can humans or other animals be infected with PPMV1?
Human infection with PPMV1 is very rare and usually only occurs in people with close, direct contact with infected pigeons. In humans, the virus typically causes mild flu-like symptoms. There is negligible risk to other animal species.