UK Parakeet Fanciers In
Panic Over New Budgie Virus
From Patricia Doyle, PhD

Hello Jeff - We may have a new paramyxovirus outbreak infecting Budgerigars aka (variety of small parrot.) There has been no confirmation as to whether this is a brand new paramyxovirus disease or older one, perhaps, newcastle or avian influenza. It does, however, sound as though it could be either a new paramyxovirus or a mutated version. I will keep you updated.



1] Date: Fri, 20 Jun, 2003 From ProMED-mail <>

Budgerigar Fanciers In Crisis After Mystery Illness Sweeps UK

By Michael McCarthy Environment Editor The Independent - UK 6-20-3

Budgerigar fanciers all over Britain are facing a crisis after a mysterious virus left hundreds of birds dead. Yesterday the Budgerigar Society advised its members to stop trading birds and cancel shows. The decision was made after one breeder in Middlesbrough lost his entire collection of more than 200 budgerigars, a stock he had built up over several years.

One senior figure within budgerigar circles said the mounting fear among fanciers was similar to that felt by farmers afraid their animals would be struck down during the foot and mouth disease epidemic. There have been unconfirmed reports of outbreaks in Teeside, Humberside, East Anglia, West Midlands, and the West Country. "This is a problem that has never occurred before in our history," said David Whittaker, general secretary of the Budgerigar Society. "We have had to ask members to stop showing birds and to stop people moving their birds around until we can identify this virus."

There was no known cure for the condition and experts did not know how it was transmitted, he said, adding: "It could be an existing virus which has mutated. Work is carrying on at the moment and as soon as we know we will post it on our website." Mr Whittaker asked people to check the website, <> [see 2 further]. He appealed for fanciers to share information and not to try to hide if they believed their birds might be affected. "Only by working together, and fanciers admitting they have a problem, will the society be able to address the situation properly. Anyone making contact can be reassured that their situation will be treated with the strictest confidence."

Roy Cooke, secretary of the Northern Budgerigar Society, said the disease was similar to influenza. He added: "It is scary because it is a bit like foot and mouth disease, you don't know when it is going to strike. It is something that has come out of the blue and it can mean a lifetime's work is thrown away."

****** [2] Date: From ProMED-mail <> Source The Budgerigar Society website News 20 Jun 2003 [edited]

The New Budgerigar Disease

Dr Baker has advised that since the membership has become more aware of the situation they are speaking to him more freely and sharing information. He is also receiving more specimens, which will greatly assist in identifying the disease and members should continue to contact the Office and or Dr Baker direct to continue this trend.

He has indicated the disease is very probably caused by a paramyxovirus infection (PMV), however, he still awaits confirmation of this. There are at least 9 types of paramyxovirus and in many of these there are a large number of subtypes, all of which can infect birds. The classical type affecting budgerigars is type 5 (also known as Kinitachi virus) which caused high mortality in aviaries in Japan in the mid 1970s; there was also a small outbreak of this in the UK in 1993. Budgerigars are also susceptible to PMV type 1 which is the cause of Newcastle disease, there is a subtype of type 1 which affects pigeons; homing pigeons have to be vaccinated against this if they take part in competitions. Two fanciers have independently commented on the large number of domestic pigeons around at the time of the outbreak but this may just be coincidence, PMV2 and PMV3 have also been seen in psittacine birds including budgerigars.

Dr Baker further advises that it is important to identify the type of PMV involved and this will be done. If it is type 1 of either the Newcastle disease type or the pigeon type vaccination should be available with commercially available vaccines, although these are not licensed for budgerigars this should not be a major problem. Indeed one fancier who almost certainly has the disease has very recently vaccinated his birds with the pigeon vaccine, it will be interesting to see how he gets on.

There is no treatment for the other types apart from supportive therapy. There is no information on carriers with regard to PMV5 or the other strains in psittacines. In domestic poultry carriers do occur but not usually beyond 2 months after infection although prolonged carriage for over a year has been reported. The strain of PMV1 affecting pigeons does produce carriers but not for more than one month after infection.

Dr Baker has also confirmed that the disease is transmitted "bird to bird" and it can be carried on shoes and clothing. Extreme care should be taken in this respect at all times. Further information will be communicated as soon as we receive it from Dr Baker and I once again thank you for your support over this stressful period.

-- ProMED-mail <>

[Budgerigars, small parrots (family Psittacidae, subfamily Psittacinae) are natives of the drier parts of Australia, found in the wild in great numbers and now adopted worldwide as a very popular pet bird. Most probably, the British veterinary authorities are currently seriously engaged in investigating this outbreak. They should exclude at least two List A diseases, namely Newcastle disease and avian influenza, and rule out any possible public health risks. The identification of the involved disease agent is anticipated with interest and concern. - Mod.AS].


Patricia A. Doyle, PhD Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board at: Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa Go with God and in Good Health



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