DUBLIN, Calif. – Poultry experts from California gathered on April 15 to address preventing the spread of Virulent Newcastle Disease (VND). Representatives from the state of California, Univ. of California- Davis and Foster Farms along with 100 urban farmers and backyard poultry owners were present for the event.

“In partnership with Foster Farms and the California Poultry Federation, we are bringing together some of the best minds in the poultry industry to provide the latest information to owners and give them useful tools and tips to safeguard birds and report concerns,” said Anette Jones, DVM, California’s State Veterinarian.

She promoted the Sick Bird Hotline at 866-922-BIRD (2473) as an information resource for stakeholders.

During the week of April 5-11, the US Dept. of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed three cases of VND in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Previously there had been only a single case of VND in Alameda County. The disease is not a threat to human health, but more than 1.1 million birds have died.

According to a news release by Foster Farms, California has more than 100,000 backyard chicken flocks. With 95 percent of the state’s commercial poultry industry being housed in Northern California, VND could pose a risk to the food supply and egg production if it is not contained.

“Although Foster Farms flocks have not been affected, our commitment as veterinarians is to ensure that all birds are protected,” said Robert O’Connor, DVM of Foster Farms, one of the workshop speakers. “That is why, along with the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture, the California Poultry Federation and UC Davis, we are sharing our knowledge and experience with backyard poultry enthusiasts. We all have a part to play in keeping our flocks safe and containing this deadly avian disease.” 

The VND outbreak prompted strict quarantines across Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties and $45 million in emergency funding from the USDA. In the first week of April, VND was detected in Arizona and is believed to be linked to the current California outbreak. The last major California VND outbreak was in 2002 and 2003 and cost nearly $170 million to eradicate and approximately 4 million birds were culled.