Virulent (formerly Exotic) Newcastle Disease is highly contagious, and while generally harmless to humans, has caused high rates of sickness and death in susceptible birds. Chickens,such as those kept by many Orange residents, are highly susceptible to the disease. Most importantly, the virus is easily spread by contact with contaminated people, surfaces, feed, or equipment. This means that humans can unknowingly spread the disease merely by going about their regular business.
The California State Veterinarian has officially quarantined Orange County, which means that the transportation of the following species, in or out of the County, is prohibited: chicken, turkeys, ducks, geese, grouse, partridges, pheasants, quail, guinea fowl, pea fowl, doves, pigeon, swans, ratites and their eggs. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has also advised that the counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino have confirmed cases of Virulent Newcastle Disease.
In rare cases, humans who have been in contact with infected birds may exhibit mild symptoms, such as eye inflammation or a mild fever. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, "These signs generally resolve without treatment, however, medical care should be sought if symptoms persist. Infection is easily prevented by using standard personal protective equipment. Virulent Newcastle disease is not a food safety concern. No human cases of Newcastle disease have ever occurred from eating poultry products. Properly cooked poultry products are safe to eat."
There is no effective cure for virulent Newcastle Disease. It is important that all commercial and non-commercial poultry owners maintain effective barriers to mitigate the risk of VND. Biosecurity tips for commercial poultry owners can be found by clicking here. For Backyard and non-commercial poultry owners, biosecurity tips can be found by clicking here.
For more information, please visit the California Department of Food and Agriculture's VND pages by clicking here.