A rare virus that can be contracted by humans has killed a large number of Victorian pigeons after being detected in Australia for the first time.


A type of avian paramyxovirus has resulted in the deaths of a number of hobby pigeon flocks.

Australian chief veterinary officer Dr Mark Schipp said the birds had died suddenly in large numbers.

The birds had sometimes appeared tired or shown neurological signs such as circling or head flicking before death.

He said human infection was extremely rare and usually occurred after contact with an infected bird.

“The rare virus causes only mild, short-term conjunctivitis or influenza-like symptoms [in humans],’’ Dr Schipp said.

“State veterinary authorities have been asked to review the health of their pigeon and poultry flocks.

“At this stage, there are no reports of this virus causing disease in wild birds, but we have asked the Australian Wildlife Health Network to be alert to this possibility.’’

Dr Schipp said the national Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Disease had met twice to discuss the outbreak, which is being managed by Victorian chief veterinary officer Dr Hugh Millar and industry and veterinary authorities.

Dr Schipp said the consultative committee has agreed to investigating pigeon and other bird holdings where disease is suspected and to quarantine affected properties.

Anyone concerned about their pigeons or birds should contact an experienced poultry veterinarian, their local department of agriculture, or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch hotline on 1800 675 888.


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