Saturday, August 11, 2018

California: Virulent Newcastle Disease (VND) Outbreaks Continue In 3 Counties

Credit Iowa State Center For Food Security & Public Health


Nearly three months after the USDA Confirms Virulent Newcastle Disease In Backyard Flock - California and a month after California enacted a two-county quarantine, the number of backyard flocks affected by this virulent poultry disease continue to rise.
Our last report - on July 20th -  showed a total of 63 outbreaks had been reported across 3 counties (San Bernardino, Riverside & Los Angeles) - with 54 from San Bernardino County, 5 from Riverside County and 3 from Los Angeles County. 
Starting two weeks ago, CDFA (California Dept. of Food & Agriculture)
began posting weekly updates, rather than when new cases were detected.  Their latest report reads:

Week of August 3 - 9, 2018: Additional Cases of Virulent Newcastle Disease in Backyard Birds in Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties

Bird owners in Southern California are responding to outreach provided over the past several days related to virulent Newcastle disease (VND), and have reported sick birds. Samples from the flocks, which experienced increased mortality, were tested at the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory System (CAHFS). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, confirms all findings.

Sixteen additional cases of virulent Newcastle disease have been confirmed in backyard chickens in Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties, California. For a list of cases visit the USDA website at:

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) want to remind bird owners about the need for biosecurity to help protect their birds from VND and other infectious diseases. These include simple steps like washing hands and scrubbing boots before and after entering a poultry area; cleaning and disinfecting tires and equipment before moving them off the property; and isolating any birds returning from shows for 30 days before placing them with the rest of the flock. In addition to practicing good biosecurity, all bird owners should report sick birds or unusual bird deaths through California's Sick Bird Hotline at 866-922-BIRD (2473). 

This latest report - posted yesterday - indicates 30 new outbreaks have been reported since July 20th, with the latest USDA tally reading:
Virulent Newcastle Disease

Last Modified: Aug 10, 2018
Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND), formerly known as Exotic Newcastle Disease is a contagious and fatal viral disease affecting the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and poultry. The disease is so virulent that many birds and poultry die without showing any clinical signs.

vND is not a food safety concern. No human cases of Newcastle disease have ever occurred from eating poultry products. Properly cooked poultry products are safe to eat. In very rare instances people working directly with sick birds can become infected with mild symptoms.
vND has not been found in commercial poultry in the U.S. since 2003.
Since May 18, USDA has confirmed 93 cases of vND in backyard birds in California, 73 in San Bernardino County, 8 in Riverside County and 12 in Los Angeles County:

As mentioned above, while there is a slight risk of human infection, illness is generally mild and usually presents as conjunctivitis. The real threat is to the poultry industry, should the virus find its way again into commercial flocks. 

According to the California Dept. of Food & Agriculture, the last outbreak in commercial poultry back in 2003 led to the depopulation of 3.16 million birds at a cost of $161 million.  Prior to that, in 1971, an outbreak in Southern California led the culling of 12 million birds.
From the recently updated USDA Fact sheet on VND:
Know the Signs of Virulent Newcastle Disease
If you see any of the following signs in your birds, they could be sick and should be checked out:
  • 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, circling,complete stiffness; and
  • Swelling around the eyes and neck.
Report Sick Birds ASAP
If your birds are sick or dying, report it right away! Early detection and testing of possible cases of virulent Newcastle disease is critical to preventing a large-scale outbreak.
Contact your agricultural extension office/agent, local veterinarian, local animal health diagnostic laboratory, or the State veterinarian. Or, call USDA toll free at 1-866-536-7593, and we’ll put you in touch with a local contact. There’s no charge for a disease investigation.
How Virulent Newcastle Disease Spreads
Virulent Newcastle disease spreads when healthy birds come in direct contact with bodily fluids from sick birds. The disease affects almost all birds and poultry, even vaccinated poultry. The virus can travel on manure, egg flats, crates, other farming materials or equipment, and people who have picked up the virus on their clothing, shoes, or hands.

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