WASHINGTON – Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) has not been found in commercial poultry in the United States since 2003, and officials with the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) are working to prevent the disease from spreading into commercial flocks.

Since May 18, USDA has confirmed several cases of vND in backyard exhibition chickens in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. While the disease is not a food safety concern, the disease is fatal to birds and poultry. The disease is so virulent that infected birds can die without showing any clinical signs of infection, according to USDA.

CDFA, along with federal and local agencies are working with poultry owners to respond to the finding. State officials quarantined potentially exposed birds and are testing for the disease. In the meantime, the agency is urging all poultry owners to practice strict biosecurity protocols.

“It is essential that all poultry owners follow good biosecurity practices to help protect their birds from infectious diseases,” CDFA said. “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.”

Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND), formerly known as Exotic Newcastle Disease, affects the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and poultry. Signs birds could be infected or sick include:

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.

USDA noted that vND affects almost all birds and poultry, including vaccinated birds. Transmission of the virus can occur through manure, egg flats, crates, other farming materials or equipment, and people who have picked up the virus on their clothing, shoes or hands.