Federal agricultural officials are reporting the presence of virulent Newcastle disease (VND) in a small flock of pet chickens in Coconino County, Arizona. This is the first case of VND in Arizona and is believed to be connected to the current outbreak of virulent Newcastle disease in California, as tests show the virus is almost identical to the virus causing disease in California.
Since May 2018, more than 400 cases of VND have been confirmed as part of the southern California outbreak, primarily in backyard exhibition birds.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working with the Arizona Department of Agriculture to respond to the finding. Federal and State partners are also conducting additional surveillance and testing in the area.
Officials say VND is not a food safety concern. No human cases of the 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. Symptoms are usually very mild, and limited to conjunctivitis and/or influenza-like symptoms. Infection is easily prevented by using standard personal protective equipment.
It is essential that all bird owners follow good biosecurity practices to help protect their birds from 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 to their veterinarian or to State veterinary officials.