Ongoing Incidents

For information on health incidents involving wildlife in your state or territory contact your WHA Coordinator
     

Rotavirus mortalities of pigeons

 
Since mid-2016, high levels of mortalities in kept pigeons (racing and fancy) have occurred in lofts across some states of Australia (Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia). Clinical signs in affected birds have included depression, vomiting, diarrhoea, regurgitation and hunched postures. Birds that appeared sick usually died within 12 to 24 hours. A rotavirus (a member of the reoviridae family) was confirmed.

Feral pigeons are likely to be susceptible to the virus. In Western Australia, feral pigeon (rock pigeon; Columba livia) mortalities occurred in a location close to an affected loft, with gross and histological findings consistent with the disease in the racing and fancy pigeons. In addition, rotavirus has been detected in faecal samples of several feral and native wild bird species overseas. 

For further information developed in consultation with relevant State, Territory, Commonwealth Government agencies and Wildlife Health Australia, please see the summary document below.

Information on Rotavirus mortalities of pigeons Feb 2017 

Please be alert to any signs of disease that are unusual or clusters of deaths in wild birds (feral or native); please report incidents to your state or territory WHA Coordinator.

For more information see the following links:

NSW DPI - Rotavirus pigeon disease 

Agriculture Victoria - Rotavirus mortalities of pigeons 

DAFWA Western Australia - Pigeon deaths in WA 


Mortality event in grey-headed flying-foxes

 
Dec 2016: There have been a number of reports of increased numbers of sick and orphaned grey-headed flying-foxes across the east coast of Queensland, NSW and Victoria, and in the ACT.

Primarily, there is evidence of abandonment and starvation in flying-fox pups. Although total numbers are not known, there appear to be hundreds of animals affected. There have also been reports of unusual behaviour in adult flying-foxes such as day roosting and flying and foraging in unusual areas.

We are aware that carer groups are working very hard to rescue and rehabilitate abandoned, sick and injured flying-foxes.

Possible causes are being considered, such as an acute food shortage and/or disease.

A group has been convened to monitor and explore this event, including representatives from the state government agriculture and environment agencies in affected jurisdictions, Wildlife Health Australia, the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

If you have further information on this event, please contact the WHA Coordinator in your state or territory.

Members of the public should not handle flying-foxes due to the risk of exposure to diseases such as Australian bat lyssavirus. If you find a sick, injured or abandoned flying-fox, contact a licensed wildlife care organisation or local veterinarian.

Tularaemia

 

Tularaemia is an infection caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis. It is commonly found in a range of wildlife species across the northern hemisphere but, until recently, was believed to be absent from Australian wildlife.

Different subspecies of tularaemia vary in their virulence. A single case of Francisella tularensis novicida was reported in a human in the Northern Territory in 2003. In 2011, two separate cases of F. t. holarctica biovar japonica were diagnosed in two women who had a history which included being scratched and/ or bitten by common ringtail possums in western Tasmania. Testing of a small number of possums from western Tasmania and other areas did not reveal evidence of tularaemia.

In September 2016, tularaemia was detected for the first time in Australian animals, following Next Generation molecular analysis of archived samples, collected from two separate clusters of common ringtail possum deaths that had occurred in NSW in 2002 and 2003. Findings of F. t. holarctica were confirmed by PCR and were found to be genomically very similar to that found in the 2011 Australian human cases. For more information see the following links:

NSW DPI - Biosecurity Bulletins for veterinarians, wildlife carers and public 

Wildlife Health Australia - Fact sheet (updated) - Tularaemia and Australian wildlife 


Zika virus

 

Zika virus is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes. It first appeared in 1947 in Africa, originating from non human primates. In humans it has caused sporadic disease in tropical areas inhabited by the mosquito vector (Aedes aegypti). In recent times, outbreaks of the disease have been seen in the Pacific and now in Brazil and other countries of South America. In humans, most infections are asymptomatic but around 20% of people may develop mild and short lived clinical signs. Recently Zika virus infection in humans has been linked to auto-immune disease and microcephaly in babies. Only a handful of imported cases have been reported in humans in Australia, although the vector mosquito occurs in parts of Queensland. There is no evidence that Australian wildlife are involved in the epidemiology of Zika virus. For more information see the following links:

Department of Health - Zika Factsheet - the Basics 

Queensland Health - Zika virus 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [USA] - Zika Virus 


Bellinger River turtle mortality

 

A severe mortality event involving Bellinger River Snapping Turtles (Myuchelys georgesi) was investigated after dead and dying turtles were reported in February 2015. Over 430 turtles are estimated to have been affected with clinical signs including swollen eyes, blindness, emaciation, clear nasal discharge and hind limb paresis, and a very high case fatality rate. Diagnostic investigation was conducted by multiple agencies and organisations. A wide range of potential infectious aetiologies were excluded by laboratory testing and no evidence of pesticides was found in river water samples.

In July 2015 a novel virus was detected in tissues of affected turtles. Further work is being undertaken to characterise the virus, determine its significance in the pathogenesis of the disease and develop further testing capabilities in a range of tissues. M. georgesi is a unique species of freshwater turtle found only in small sections of the Bellinger and Kalang rivers and total numbers are estimated to be  extremely low. A small number of healthy M. georgesi were therefore removed from the river for a captive breeding program, and have remained healthy.

[This is a summary of the report in Animal Health Surveillance Quarterly, Volume 20, Issue 3]

Related links:

NSW DPI – Bellinger River Snapping Turtle Response 

Bellingen Shire Council – Bellinger River Snapping Turtles – Latest News 


Australian bat lyssavirus in juvenile bats

 

One adult and three juvenile grey-headed flying foxes rescued from a NSW Central Coast flying fox roost on 9 November 2015 have tested positive for Australian bat lyssavirus. A NSW CVO Bulletin to Wildlife Carers has been issued.

Additional information for NSW can be found at the end of the CVO Bulletin. Links to ABLV information in other jurisdictions are available on the WHA Resources (Expand 'Diseases and disease agents’ in the Categories list, select 'Australian Bat Lyssavirus’ and look for ‘Australian Bat Lyssavirus Resources’ for your state/territory).


Paramyxovirus in pigeons

 

Pigeon paramyxovirus (Avian Paramyxovirus 1) has been detected in loft pigeons and free-ranging feral pigeons in Victoria and NSW and domestic pigeons in Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia. There are currently no reported unusual disease incidents in Australian commercial or backyard poultry flocks associated with this disease. Please be alert to any signs of disease that are unusual or clusters of deaths in wild birds; please report incidents to your state or territory WHA Coordinator.

Related links: 

NSW DPI - information on Pigeon Paramyxovirus 

Agriculture Victoria - information on Pigeon Paramyxovirus 

DPIPWE Tasmania - information on Avian Paramyxovirus in Pigeons 

PIRSA South Australia - information on Pigeon Paramyxovirus 

DAFWA Western Australia - information on Pigeon Paramyxovirus 

DAF Queensland - information on avian paramyxovirus in pigeons 


Kangaroo mortality events

 

Mass mortality and morbidity events involving kangaroos occur across a number of states and territories, in some cases with a seasonal occurrence. Investigation may reveal a primary cause, although these events are often multifactoral in nature. Examples include:

Plant toxicity – AHSQ Vol 19 Issue 2 & AHSQ Vol 20 Issue 4

Starvation – AHSQ Vol 20 Issue 3

Parasitism – AHSQ Vol 19 Issue 3

Other/unidentified causes – AHSQ Vol 15 Issue 2AHSQ Vol 19 Issue 1


Hendra virus

 

Information on the Hendra incidents, on how to minimise the risk of horses becoming infected with Hendra virus and ongoing research into this virus are available from the following websites.

Related links: 

NSW DPI - information on Hendra Virus 

Queensland DAF - information on Hendra Virus 

National Pest and Disease Outbreak website - Hendra Virus