Virulent Newcastles Disease Update

Update 2/27/19

In light of the ongoing Virulent Newcastles Disease in southern California, the ZAHP Fusion Center sent a letter to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) highlighting the unique qualities of the exotic animal industry, and asking that these qualities be considered in the decision making process should the vND appear in close proximity to one of our facilities.

For a list of confirmed vND cases please visit: ; updated weekly.

Original Post 1/8/19

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the detection of Virulent Newcastle Disease (VND) in a commercial layer flock in Riverside County, California.   This is a continuation of the outbreak that started in southern California in May of 2018. View the full announcement from USDA here.

About VND

Virulent Newcastle Disease is not a food safety concern so 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.

According to Dr. Jonathan Sleeman of the National Wildlife Health Center, the strain currently circulating in southern California is distinct from strains identified earlier in cormorants in the Great Lakes, and the strain affecting rock doves in Texas (for additional information click here.)

To our knowledge, this California strain has not been detected in birds other than poultry, but it is unknown how timely the sharing of surveillance information will be with the current government shutdown. This virus is highly adapted to gallinaceous birds. It is not known if gallinaceous birds other than chickens are equally affected. This could impact gallinaceous birds in breeding and exhibition settings.

What this means for our community

Exhibitors, bird breeders and owners should carefully examine their biosecurity protocols, and heightened biosecurity measures may be appropriate. Guidance on biosecurity for VND can be found on the California Department of Agriculture’s website. Additional information on biosecurity for all poultry flocks can be found on USDA’s Defend the Flock Resource Center.

Since the spread of this virus from one facility to another is still under investigation, you must consider multiple possible routes of infection. It is very important to ensure that any of your staff or volunteers monitor the health of their own birds, and report sick or dead birds promptly:

State Bird Hotline 1-866-922-2473

USDA toll free number 1-866-536-7593

Additional background provided by USDA email

Virulent Newcastle Disease is a contagious and fatal viral disease affecting the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and poultry. The disease is so virulent that many birds and poultry die without showing any clinical signs. A death rate of almost 100 percent can occur in unvaccinated poultry flocks. Virulent Newcastle Disease can infect and cause death even in vaccinated poultry.

Clinical signs of Virulent Newcastle Disease include: sudden death and increased death loss in the flock; sneezing; gasping for air; nasal discharge; coughing; greenish, watery diarrhea; decreased activity; tremors; drooping wings; twisting of the head and neck; circling; complete stiffness; and swelling around the eyes and neck.