Paramyxovirus infection: how to spot and report the disease

How to spot paramyxovirus infection in pigeons, what to do if you suspect it and measures to prevent its spread.

Applies to England, Scotland and Wales

Pigeon paramyxovirus (PPMV) usually affects pigeons.

It doesn’t normally affect humans.

The disease is currently present in Great Britain.

Pigeon paramyxovirus infection is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect it you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

How to spot pigeon paramyxovirus infection

Signs of paramyxovirus infection in pigeons may include:

  • nervous signs, including trembling wings and heads, and twisting of the neck
  • partial paralysis of wings and legs (birds may fall over on landing and be unable to feed)
  • unusually wet and liquidy faeces (diarrhoea) that are often greenish in colour
  • quietness, loss of appetite and reluctance to move

The disease is very contagious so it is common for most of the pigeons sharing a loft to display clinical signs at the same time.

How paramyxovirus is spread

The disease is spread by direct contact between pigeons and through:

  • pigeon transporters that have not been adequately cleaned and disinfected
  • drinking water in lofts and transporters
  • pigeon fanciers carrying infection on their clothes, hands and feet

The disease can be introduced to a loft of kept pigeons through contact with wild pigeons.

The disease can be spread to chickens if, for example, their feed is infected with the faeces of infected pigeons. In chickens paramyxovirus can cause Newcastle disease.

Preventing and controlling paramyxovirus infection in pigeons

You can help prevent the disease by:

  • vaccinating your pigeons against the disease - talk to your vet for advice (if you run pigeons shows or races, you must ensure any bird taking part has been vaccinated)
  • practising strict biosecurity on your premises

If you organise a pigeon show or race you must make sure only vaccinated pigeons take part.

If you own racing pigeons, you must keep a record of every show or race each bird takes part in.

If you report suspicion of paramyxovirus infection in a racing or other captive pigeon, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) vets will investigate.

If the disease is confirmed, APHA will impose temporary restrictions.

Find out more about prevention and control, read the guidance on what happens when a notifiable disease is suspected or confirmed

Legislation on paramyxovirus

Paramyxovirus is covered by the Diseases of Poultry (England) Order 2003.

Published 26 August 2014
Last updated 18 October 2018 + show all updates
  1. Contact details for reporting a notifiable disease updated.

  2. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

  3. First published.