Keep domestic birds away from wild birds, warns state veterinarian amid reported deaths

Breakfast host Refilwe Moloto chats with Western Cape veterinarian Dr Lesley van Helden about reports of dying pigeons and doves.

  • State veterinarian Dr Lesley van Helden says wild birds are more easily infected with diseases and should be kept away from domestic birds
  • There have been reports of some doves and pigeons dead in a number of Cape Town suburbs due to pigeon paramyxovirus (PPMV)
  • Dr van Helden says there are a number of diseases that affect wild birds

Image: © Alex Polo / 123rf.com

Have you noticed an increase in the number of doves and dead pigeons in your neighborhood?

It has been reported that some doves and pigeons have recently died from pigeon paramyxovirus (PPMV), a disease that is transmitted by contact between birds.

Dr Lesley van Helden, State Veterinarian for Epidemiology at the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, explains that PPMV has been around in South Africa since the 1980s and occasionally reappears in wild birds.

She says it is difficult to stop the spread of PPMV among wild birds, but adds that it can be prevented in domestic birds.

“Just preventing contact between domestic birds and wild birds will go a long way to protect their health and yours too,” she told CapeTalk.

Other diseases that can cause bird deaths include bird flu and Newcastle disease, she explains.

Dr van Helden urged residents of Cape Town to report any inexplicable deaths of domestic birds to their local state veterinary office, which may be found here.

If residents find a dead wild bird in their yard, they should dispose of it safely using plastic or gloves and wash their hands thoroughly afterward.

If large numbers of wild birds have died in a public place, van Helden says city officials should be contacted to help with disposal.

The more birds you have in a small space, the more likely they are to all be infected if one of them is.

Dr Lesley van Helden, State Veterinarian for Epidemiology – Western Cape Department of Agriculture

We often get calls from the public seeing wild birds dying in their neighborhoods … our veterinary services come out and take samples to determine the cause of the problem.

Dr Lesley van Helden, State Veterinarian for Epidemiology – Western Cape Department of Agriculture

It can be a lot of things … We have bird flu right now and it’s a pretty dangerous disease for birds.

Dr Lesley van Helden, State Veterinarian for Epidemiology – Western Cape Department of Agriculture

It can also be Newcastle disease or pigeon paramyxovirus (PPMV) which are very close to each other.

Dr Lesley van Helden, State Veterinarian for Epidemiology – Western Cape Department of Agriculture

PPMV mainly affects doves and pigeons. You will usually only find a few dead, but if not, you could see that they maybe look a little depressed, sometimes you will see that they are uncoordinated and have a hard time flying.

Dr Lesley van Helden, State Veterinarian for Epidemiology – Western Cape Department of Agriculture


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