USDA Confirms Virulent Newcastle Disease In Arizona Pet Chickens

WASHINGTON – The presence of virulent Newcastle disease has been confirmed in a small flock of pet chickens in Coconino County, Arizona. This is the first case of virulent Newcastle disease in Arizona.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the case is believed to be connected to the current outbreak of virulent Newcastle disease in California, as tests show the virus is almost identical to the virus causing disease in California.

Arizona state veterinarian Peter Mundschenk told KJZZ that the Department of Agriculture is working to find the source and keep it contained.

“It’s pretty much been in backyard birds, but they’ve had a couple spillovers into the commercial flocks in the areas,” Mundschenk said. “That’s what we’re trying to prevent by having the surveillance zone so we don’t get the spread of the disease like California’s had.”

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.

Since May 2018, more than 400 cases of Newcastle disease have been confirmed as part of this southern California outbreak, primarily in backyard exhibition birds.

According to authorities, virulent Newcastle disease is not a food safety concern. No human cases of Newcastle disease have ever occurred from eating poultry products.

Virulent Newcastle disease, formerly known as exotic Newcastle disease, is a contagious and fatal viral disease affecting the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and poultry, according to the USDA. The disease is so virulent that many birds and poultry die without showing any clinical signs.

Clinical signs in chickens include:

● Sudden death and increased death loss in flock;

● Sneezing, gasping for air, nasal discharge, coughing;

● Greenish, watery diarrhea;

● Decreased activity, tremors, drooping wings, twisting of head and neck, circling, complete stiffness; and

● Swelling around the eyes and neck