For the first time, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of virulent Newcastle disease in a small domestic flock of backyard exhibition chickens (250) in Utah County, Utah.
This case is believed to be connected to the current outbreak of virulent Newcastle disease in California, as three of the birds at the premises were recently moved to Utah from Los Angeles County, California.
In Utah, the disease is currently contained to one domestic flock and has not been detected in any commercial poultry flocks.
Since May 2018, 299 cases of Newcastle disease have been confirmed in Southern California, primarily in backyard exhibition birds.
Agriculture officials say 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. In very rare instances people working directly with sick birds can become infected.
“The disease is spread when healthy birds come in contact with bodily fluids from infected birds, and contaminated surfaces,” said UDAF State Veterinarian, Dr. Barry Pittman. This disease can be transmitted through manure, egg flats, crates, farming materials or equipment, vehicles, or through people who have handled these materials and their clothing, hands and shoes.
Virulent 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. A death rate of almost 100 percent can occur in unvaccinated poultry flocks. Virulent Newcastle disease can infect and cause death even in vaccinated poultry.
Clinical signs of virulent Newcastle disease include: sudden death and increased death loss in the flock; sneezing; gasping for air; nasal discharge; coughing; greenish, watery diarrhea; decreased activity; tremors; drooping wings; twisting of the head and neck; circling; complete stiffness; and swelling around the eyes and neck.
The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) advises if you own domestic poultry (e.g., chickens, geese or ducks) in Utah County—and you observe any sick or dying birds—call 801-520-4311 immediately so that UDAF officials can follow up.
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