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Pigeon

Paramyxovirosis

Importance

To protect against paramyxovirus infection, Germany practises compulsory vaccination for fancy pigeon breeds.

Paramyxovirosis is a readily transmissible and generally incurable disease of pigeons. Vaccination is the only reliable method of protection against losses. For this reason, the German breeders' associations for fancy and racing pigeons require compulsory vaccination for all birds in a flock.

Brooding pigeon in nest

Causes

The disease is caused by the paramyxovirus, a globally prevalent virus which was first described in pigeons in 1978. Paramyxovirus disease occurs in different forms, the main symptom of which is impaired coordination. Losses can be heavy and complete recovery is rare. Transmission is by aerosol droplet infection via the nasal passages or conjunctiva. Infection is quickly followed by massive virus replication in various organs.

Symptoms

Virus replication leads to disruption of water absorption mechanisms, typified by liquid faeces. Partial paralysis of wings and legs (often unilateral) is observed as the result of impaired nerve function. In some cases, birds may become unable to move. Twisting or tilting of the head and neck are commonly observed. However, these signs do not generally appear until around 3 to 4 weeks after infection. Not all birds show clinical symptoms in the first few weeks after infection. However, affected birds shed large quantities of virus and play a crucial role in spreading the disease.

A pigeon defecates in cage

Prophylaxis

To protect pigeons' health and performance, consistent vaccination is essential and is therefore a requirement imposed by many breeders' associations. Only in this way can pigeon flocks be protected against infection.

General principles:

  • Vaccination should be carried out in the whole flock, not just in birds with particular uses (racing team, show birds) or in specific age groups (e.g. breeding pairs).
  • Only whole-flock vaccination stops dangerous pathogens from spreading and passing from pigeon to pigeon.
  • Only extensive vaccination coverage (ideally 100%) can be relied on to break chains of infection.
  • Vaccinations should be given in good time before the start of the breeding, racing or showing season.
  • Young birds are particularly susceptible to infectious diseases. If disease can be prevented by vaccination, it should be carried out as soon as possible.

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