Disease kills hundreds of racing pigeons and forces lock down of competitions


Bird owners Colin Murphy and Marilyn Murphy with Cockburn councillor Phil Eva and residents Greg Devlin and Mary Devlin. Picture: Matt Jelonek        www.communitypix.com.au d455864
Bird owners Colin Murphy and Marilyn Murphy with Cockburn councillor Phil Eva and residents Greg Devlin and Mary Devlin. Picture: Matt Jelonek        www.communitypix.com.au d455864

AN adenovirus has been blamed for killing hundreds of racing pigeons and forcing a lockdown on competition.

The Pigeon Racing Federation of WA (PRFWA) told members to quarantine birds after the first death was reported in mid-May.

By then many pigeons had been infected, with ill birds vomiting, suffering diarrhoea and dying.

The Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) began investigating after the first reports were made and issued a notice to the industry.

Dr Mia Carbon, the department’s acting chief veterinary officer, said post mortems had been held on birds submitted to its animal health labs.

“Laboratory tests and an epidemiological assessment provide a high level of confidence that the cause of mortality is due to an adenovirus,” she said.

“Further testing is being finalised to confirm this.”

Dr Carbon said adenoviruses occurred commonly in birds and could be passed easily from pigeon to pigeon.

“There is no risk to human health from adenovirus,” she said.

“There is no evidence that other species of birds have been affected by this current disease event.”

A figure on the number of casualties has not been confirmed, although there have been reports of as many as 1500 bird deaths.

Some owners lost up to 20 per cent of their flock.

PRFWA president George Azar said the virus had shocked racers and fanciers.

“It was horrifying to get up and find dead birds,” he said.

“I’ve had birds since I was 11 years old. I’m now 59.”

The PRFWA’s first official training runs will be held this Sunday, with an actual race meet pencilled in for July 17.

While the source of the virus remains a mystery, Mr Azar said he was confident it had been contained.

“We feel the birds are well and truly over the virus,” he said. “It takes between seven and 10 days for it to go through the loft.

“We’ve had five weeks of lockdown.”

DAFWA recommended pigeon owners consider biosecurity when taking part in a race.

Related: Virus scare sees pigeons struck from agricultural shows