In mid-May, the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed the presence of the virulent Newcastle disease in a small flock of backyard exhibition chickens in Los Angeles County—it was the first case of virulent Newcastle disease in the U.S. since 2003.
On May 30, the first case of Newcastle disease was confirmed in San Bernardino County and a month later, on June 30, officials noted the first case in Riverside County.
Inland residents with backyard chickens, and people with other birds, were advised by county agriculture officials to take steps to protect the animals from Newcastle disease.
“This disease is so virulent it could significantly affect the poultry industry nationwide if it reaches commercial flocks,” Riverside County Agricultural Commissioner Ruben Arroyo warned. He further advised that county inspectors defer to federal inspectors at production facilities.
Although the disease is rarely harmful to people, it has been reported that it takes just one day for exposure to Newcastle to infect every bird in a single location and cause serious illness or death within an entire flock. County officials urge residents to protect their birds through a practice known as biosecurity.
The biosecurity process includes restricting traffic onto and off your property; disinfecting shoes, clothes, hands, egg trays or flats, crates, vehicles, and tires, avoiding visits to other poultry farms or bird owners; if you visit, be sure to change clothes and clean your hands and shoes before entering your own bird area; washing hands and scrubbing boots before and after entering a poultry area; and isolating any birds returning from shows for 30 days before placing them with the rest of the flock.
In addition to the steps detailed above, officials request that bird owners report sick birds or unusual bird deaths through California’s Sick Bird Hotline at 866-922-BIRD (2473).
Riverside County’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Allan Drusys, recommended bird owners shelter their flocks in place until the situation is completely controlled and epidemiologists recommended a stop-movement initiative as well. “In short, bird owners should not be buying new birds or trading their birds until this matter is fully resolved,” Drusys said.
As of July 6, more than three dozen cases have been reported and confirmed in backyard flocks but not in commercial poultry operations in the inland region, the majority in San Bernardino County. To learn more about the disease and track cases reported and confirmed in the region visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.