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California detects virulent Newcastle disease

Confirmed detection in backyard exhibition chickens in Los Angeles County first since 2003.

The California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) announced May 18 that it has detected virulent Newcastle disease in a small flock of backyard exhibition chickens in Los Angeles County, Cal.

The detection has been confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). This is the first case of virulent Newcastle disease, previously referred to as exotic Newcastle disease, in the U.S. since 2003.

Virulent Newcastle disease is not a food safety concern. No human cases of Newcastle disease have ever occurred due to eating poultry products. Properly cooked poultry products are safe to eat, CDFA said. In very rare instances, people working directly with sick birds can become infected, CDFA said, adding that symptoms are usually very mild and limited to conjunctivitis and/or influenza-like symptoms. Infection is easily prevented by using standard personal protective equipment.

CDFA is working with federal and local partners as well as poultry owners to respond to the finding. State officials have quarantined potentially exposed birds and are testing for the disease.

CDFA emphasized that it is essential that all poultry owners follow good biosecurity practices to help protect their birds from infectious diseases. These include simple steps like washing hands and scrubbing boots before and after entering a poultry area, cleaning and disinfecting tires and equipment before moving them off the property and isolating any birds returning from shows for 30 days before placing them with the rest of the flock.

Additional information on Virulent Newcastle disease and biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/Animal_Health/Newcastle_Disease_Info.html.

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