Virulent Newcastle disease has been confirmed in a commercial chicken operation in Riverside County. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) made the announcement on Saturday, December 15. It is the first time the disease has been discovered in commercial poultry since 2003.
The facility has now been placed under quarantine and officials will be examining the birds housed at the operation. APHIS is working closely with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to evaluate the birds, “where they originated from, any movement onto and off of the farm, as well as what is going on in terms of the population right around it,” said Dr. Alan Huddleston, Director of the APHIS Avian, Swine & Aquatic Animal Health Center.
Officials responding to the discovery are looking to first limit the spread of the disease to other poultry operations and then eradicate it once the outbreak is contained. Federal and State partners are working to “depopulate the birds and then do a cleaning and disinfection of the premises,” Dr. Huddleston noted. Other commercial farms in the surrounding area are being encouraged to increase biosecurity measures while officials conduct additional surveillance and testing in the area.
The recent confirmation of virulent Newcastle disease is related to another discovery earlier in the year in a small flock of backyard exhibition chickens in Los Angeles County. The disease is not an issue in relation to food safety, as no human cases of Newcastle disease have ever occurred from eating poultry products.
The disease is a significant concern for poultry operations as it is highly contagious and fatal to birds. Newcastle disease attacks the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems and can cause birds and poultry to die without ever showing any clinical signs. All bird owners are urged to be diligent in their biosecurity practices and to report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to officials.