The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has detected virulent Newcastle disease in a small flock of backyard exhibition chickens in Los Angeles County. The detection has been confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). This is the first case of virulent Newcastle disease, previously referred to as exotic Newcastle disease, in the U.S. since 2003.
Virulent Newcastle disease (VND), formerly known as Exotic Newcastle Disease, is a serious, highly contagious viral disease that can affect poultry and other birds. In rare cases, humans that have exposure to infected birds may get eye inflammation or mild fever-like symptoms. These signs generally resolve without treatment, however, medical care should be sought if symptoms persist. Infection is easily prevented by using standard personal protective equipment. Virulent Newcastle disease 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.
The virus is found in respiratory discharges and feces and may cause high rates of sickness and death in susceptible birds. For poultry, chickens are most susceptible and ducks and geese are the least susceptible. Mortality rates for Psittacine birds (parrots) can range from zero up to 75%.
CDFA is working with federal and local partners as well as poultry owners to respond to the finding. State officials have quarantined potentially exposed birds and are testing for the disease.
It is essential that all poultry 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.
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