Paramyxovirus infection

Paramyxovirus infection occurs in pigeons as an acute disease, taking an epidemic course.

The paramyxovirus is related to the Newcastle disease pathogen, but not identical. The virus is highly pathogenic for pigeons, but not for other domestic bird species.

Course of the disease:
Within just a few days of infection, both visibly and latently affected birds shed the virus in secretions from the conjunctiva, nose and throat, as well as in the faeces. The incubation period ranges from 3 to 21 days. Up to 30% of affected pigeons may recover spon-taneously after around 4 weeks of illness.

Symptoms of the disease:
The initial signs of paramyxovirosis are increased water intake combined with reduced feed consumption, emaciation and diarrhoea-like faeces due to a pathogenic increase in fluid excretion (= polyuria: puddles containing floating particles of faeces are formed in the loft). This is typically followed by uni- or bilateral paralysis of the legs, timidity, torsion of the neck, twisting movements of the body, overturning and walking backwards. Most pigeons die.

Recognition of the disease:
The virus can be demonstrated in specially equipped laboratories by virological examination of organ samples (brain, kidneys) from dead pigeons. Antibody demonstration is performed by serological examination of blood samples taken from affected pigeons not earlier than 2 weeks after infection.

Similar conditions:

As with other viral diseases, there is no effective treatment for affected pigeons.
If infection is suspected in a flock, emergency vaccination can be carried out in all pigeons that appear healthy in order to prevent the infection spreading (see annual prevention plan: paramyxovirus vaccination plan, starting on day 4 = vaccination day). Visibly affected birds should be excluded from emergency vaccination and removed from the flock, since by shedding the virus they put the remainder of the flock at risk until vaccine protection is acquired.

Only active immunisation (see annual prevention plan: paramyxovirus vaccination plan) protects the pigeons, which then develop a stable immunity within 3-4 weeks.