Thursday, July 19, 2018

A call for vigilance: keep deadly poultry disease out of our backyard

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian

An outbreak of a deadly poultry disease in southern California is cause for local poultry growers and those with backyard flocks to keep their guard up.

If you have poultry, we ask that you be on the lookout for signs of Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) and report any cases to the WSDA Sick Bird Hotline at 1-800-606-3056. 

The warning comes on the heels of an outbreak that began this May in Southern California, where the virus appeared and spread through backyard poultry flocks in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The disease has not been detected in any domestic poultry in Washington – we would like to keep it that way.

Watch for unusually large numbers of poultry deaths or symptoms such as swelling around the eyes and neck, dripping of fluid from the beak and nasal area, coughing, sneezing, twisting of the head and neck, greenish diarrhea, decreased appetite, or decreased egg production.

Commonly known as exotic Newcastle disease, vND spreads quickly with high rates of illness and mortality for domestic poultry. 

The vND virus can infect many bird species including chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and game birds. Infected birds shed large amounts of virus in respiratory fluids and feces.

Backyard chickens are at greater risk and are highly susceptible because they can be “silently” infected by other birds, such as parrots, that show few or no signs of illness.

No commercial poultry operations have been affected so far and properly cooked poultry poses no risk to humans when consumed. For poultry, the virus can be transferred between facilities on clothing, feed, equipment or by moving birds, which may appear unaffected. 

Prevention through biosecurity 

The key to preventing vND infection is to practice consistent biosecurity. Recommendations from CDFA include:

  • Use dedicated clothing and footwear or wear disposable coveralls and booties when visiting birds
  • If exposed to poultry waste, change clothes and footwear, disinfect any items used and wash your car
  • Use footbaths for the bottoms of shoes or plastic botties at entry/exit of poultry enclosures
  • Practice good hygiene for your hands and disinfect equipment
  • Prevent wild birds from entering poultry enclosures
  • Carcasses of dead birds should be double bagged in plastic garbage bags
  • DO NOT dump bird carcasses on the roadside or other exposed locations
  • Avoid gatherings where poultry are present
  • Avoid sharing or borrowing equipment from other poultry owners
  • Avoid moving your birds or purchasing new additions unless they are from an NPIP certified seller.

Visit our avian health webpage if you have questions about exotic Newcastle disease, or how to keep your birds safe and healthy.