Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) is a poultry disease that has not been seen in California since 2002. It has recently re-emerged and represents a serious threat to backyard and commercial flocks. UC Cooperative Extension specialist Maurice Pitesky, who is affiliated with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, says:
“The current outbreak is particularly concerning, because the most recent case in Alameda County demonstrates that the disease can spread anywhere. The disease has never spread this far north before. The disease is being primarily spread among backyard birds and has ‘spilled over’ into several commercial farms in Southern California.”
More than 350 cases have been confirmed in Southern California alone. Cases have been seen in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and Alameda counties. Ventura and Alameda counties have each had a single confirmed case. Dr. Pitesky reports that there are an estimated 100,000 backyard poultry premises in California, so there is wide susceptibility to Newcastle.
The University of California has developed a range of resources for poultry owners, including:
- How to Protect Birds – A Guide for Backyard Poultry Owners
- “All Out – All In” Poultry Management – A Guide for Poultry Owners
- Isolation and Quarantine Recommendations
- vND resources in English on UCCE poultry website
- vND resources in Spanish on UCCE poultry website
- Poultry Ponderings (UCCE quarterly newsletter). The Winter 2019 and Fall 2018 editions have relevant articles).
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) provides current information about the outbreak, as well as additional resources. The CDFA will “hear updates on key issues impacting farmers and ranchers related to vND” at its upcoming meeting on Tuesday April 2, 2019. The meeting will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which is located at 1220 N Street, in Sacramento. CDFA has a vND page with information in both English and Spanish.
The USDA is announcing confirmed cases weekly. The USDA’s toll free number is 1-866-536-7593. Links to USDA biosecurity resources (including the signs of Newcastle and how it spreads) are included below.
Per a news release on the UC ANR website, vNd 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. Symptoms are usually very mild, and limited to conjunctivitis and/or influenza-like symptoms. Infection is easily prevented by using standard personal protective equipment.”