Virulent Newcastle Disease Detected in USA
Backyard chicken flocks in California recently tested positive for virulent Newcastle Disease (vND). This is the first outbreak of vND in the US since 2002-2003 when more than 3.5 million commercially raised birds were affected. Containing the outbreak cost US tax payers over $180 million, so this disease is a big deal if it spreads to commercial flocks. Backyard flocks are also in danger of 100% losses if infected.
So far the disease seems to be contained to Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties in California. However, the virus can be spread by wild bird populations, contaminated feed, or from direct exposure to droppings and respiratory discharge. The virus survives for up to 30 days in warm, humid environments such as birds’ feathers, manure, and other materials. It can remain infectious indefinitely in frozen material, but is destroyed by dehydration and UV rays in sunlight. Biosecurity practices are very important for anyone who keeps, transports, or handles birds.
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To prevent spread of vND wash hands, clothing, shoes, and even the tires on your car before entering and leaving any property with poultry. Do not transport birds to or from your property without a strict 30 day quarantine period. Sanitize used cages, feed dishes, and other equipment before moving between flocks. Remove sources of feed that encourage wild birds to intermingle with domestic flocks. For example, use feeders that restrict wild bird access, keep bird feeders as far from poultry as possible, and reduce free range areas if vND is a concern in your area.
Symptoms of Newcastle Disease
Watch for signs of vND in your flock and report suspected infections. The USDA operates a toll free hotline (1-866-536-7593) staffed with veterinarians to assist you free of charge.
Virulent Newcastle disease is fatal to non-vaccinated birds and may also kill vaccinated birds. Infected poultry often die before showing any symptoms. Watch for the following signs of infection:
- Sudden death and increased death loss in flock
- Sneezing, gasping for air, nasal discharge, coughing
- Greenish, watery diarrhea
- Decreased activity, tremors, drooping wings, twisting of head and neck, walking in circles, complete stiffness
- Swelling around the eyes and neck
This disease is not confined to backyard chickens, all birds are susceptible. Be on the lookout for infections in ducks, turkeys, and other barnyard fowl.
Can I Get Sick From Newcastle Disease?
Although vND causes high mortality in birds, it is not considered a serious disease for humans. Infected meat does not sicken humans if it is properly cooked. In rare cases, it may be transmitted to humans by direct contact with infected poultry, causing flu-like symptoms, conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Please see your doctor if you think you have been sickened by an infected bird.
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