WASHINGTON – The US Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) in a third commercial poultry flock in Riverside County, California. This is part of an outbreak in southern California that began in May 2018 in backyard exhibition birds. 

While the disease is not a food safety threat, the disease is fatal to birds and poultry. No human cases of Newcastle disease have ever occurred from eating poultry products. Properly cooked poultry products are safe to eat. However, the disease is so virulent that infected birds can die without showing any clinical signs of infection, according to the USDA.

APHIS is working closely with the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture to respond to the outbreak by limiting the spread of the disease in commercial flocks, and then eradicating it. Additional surveillance and testing are being conducted at nearby commercial farms by federal and state agencies.

“It is essential that all bird owners follow good biosecurity practices to help protect their birds from infectious diseases,” APHIS said. “These include simple steps like washing hands and scrubbing boots before and after entering a poultry area; and cleaning and disinfecting tires and equipment before moving them off the property.” 

Virulent Newcastle Disease, 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.

Bird owners should report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state or federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at (866) 536-7593. Additional information on biosecurity for all poultry flocks can be found at www.aphis.usda.gov/animalhealth/defendtheflock