No evidence of return of fatal pigeon disease

A DISEASE which killed hundreds of pigeons a month in Guernsey in the winter of 2020/21 has not reappeared despite having done so in Jersey.

States vet David Chamberlain. (31422018)
States vet David Chamberlain. (31422018)

Pigeon paramyxovirus type 1 – PPMV-1– is a virus which can also affect doves and poultry, where it is called Newcastle’s disease.

The Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals alerted islanders there to increasing signs of the disease.

Its message came after a number of grounded pigeons were taken to its animal shelter.

‘Affected birds are usually thin and have green faeces,’ said the JSPCA.

‘Sometimes they will also have injuries resulting from not being able to balance or fly well.’

The disease is often fatal. Those that survive still carry the virus and could spread it.

GSPCA manager Steve Byrne said that in the winter of 2020/21 hundreds of birds were dying a month.

‘We still see occasional pigeons with the disease, but not in the numbers of 18-24 months ago when it killed thousands of pigeons in Guernsey,’ he said.

States veterinary officer David Chamberlain said the disease was endemic in the island, meaning that occasional outbreaks were not uncommon.

But the last time a case was found locally was last year.

‘Whilst there is a possibility that the PPMV-1 outbreak in Jersey could find its way to Guernsey, this depends on the how virulent this strain is, the immunity status of our local population of wild pigeons, and whether a pigeon carrying the virus travels across from Jersey,’ he said.

‘Even if the outbreak was found in Guernsey, most pigeon keepers vaccinate their birds against PPMV-1 so they should be protected and it’s unlikely that it would infect other birds kept as pets.’

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