The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has found more virulent Newcastle disease in two commercial poultry operations in California. The latest discoveries come from commercial layer flocks in Riverside County. The announcement marks the third time in two months that the disease has been found in a commercial operation. Prior to the December 2018 discovery, virulent Newcastle disease had not been identified in commercial poultry since 2003.
APHIS reports that the detection of more virulent Newcastle disease is related to the outbreak of the disease in southern California that originated in backyard exhibition birds in May 2018. Between that finding and December 21, 2018, USDA has confirmed 231 cases of the disease in California. San Bernardino County has been home to the majority of infections at 104 cases, with 87 in Riverside County, 39 cases in Los Angeles County and only one in Ventura County. The numbers have not been updated however since the government shutdown.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will be working with APHIS in addressing the latest finding with a goal of limiting further spread of the disease. Similar to the last commercial discovery, state and federal authorities will be surveilling the surrounding area and coordinating with other commercial farms in the vicinity to increase preventative biosecurity protocols. Some of the most effective biosecurity practices for bird owners include diligent hand washing and thoroughly cleaning boots when entering or exiting a poultry area, as well as wiping down tires and equipment with disinfectant prior to leaving a property.
USDA has indicated that virulent Newcastle disease is not a threat to food safety, as there have been no human cases of the disease recorded as a result of consuming poultry products. However, individuals working directly with infected birds can potentially become ill with influenza-like symptoms.