CALIFORNIA FREE OF VIRULENT NEWCASTLE DISEASE

Southern California Regional Quarantine Lifted

SACRAMENTO, June 1, 2020 – The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have announced an end to the Virulent Newcastle Disease (VND) quarantine in Southern California. Extensive testing of the regulated area has been completed, with no additional detections of the disease. This allows poultry to again move freely within California.    

“We have eagerly anticipated this day and are extremely proud of the tireless work of the Virulent Newcastle Disease Task Force,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross.   “While we extend gratitude to the hundreds of dedicated and skilled USDA, CDFA and California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System employees who worked for over two years to achieve this goal, often in adverse conditions,  we also want to thank the thousands of poultry owners in Southern California who made the sacrifices and investments needed to eradicate this virus from California.”

VND was first detected in May of 2018 in Los Angeles County. By December 2018 the virus had spread extensively in backyard poultry in the LA Basin and also infected commercial flocks.  After prolonged disease control efforts, the last confirmed positive case was detected in February, 2020. Testing has continued throughout the area since that time to gain assurance that the disease was eradicated.  

To continue to protect California flocks, poultry entering California must either have a certificate of veterinary inspection demonstrating good health or a National Poultry Improvement Program certificate. CDFA retains the authority to monitor and test poultry so that any future infections can be stopped quickly, minimizing potential harm. Additionally, CDFA and USDA, in partnership with many bird enthusiasts in Southern California, are committed to on-going monitoring for disease and continual support for biosecurity training. 

All backyard poultry owners and commercial operations are encouraged to practice biosecurity measures to help prevent the introduction of disease when people enter or depart the premises, to routinely check birds for signs of illness, and to report any incidence of suspected VND or other bird diseases. More information is available at www.cdfa.ca.gov or through the California Avian Health Education Network (CAHEN) at (866) 922-2473.

California State Veterinarian Dr Annette Jones: “We hope to continue working with bird owning communities to prevent a reintroduction of widespread disease so that we never have to place an areawide VND quarantine in Southern California again.” 

Background: Virulent Newcastle disease is a virus that affects birds with particularly lethal effects on poultry, affecting the digestive system, nervous system and respiratory system.  It is not normally found in the United States.  It spreads quickly between birds but is not considered a human health threat.  Its presence can be so detrimental to poultry health and the food supply that it triggers state, federal and international regulatory response.   While this virus has been introduced and eradicated from more than 15 U.S. states since 1950, the largest outbreaks occurred in California in 1971-1974 and 2002-2003 following a similar pattern but with wider spread than the recent 2018-2020 outbreak.  

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May 22, 2020

Virulent Newcastle Disease Update from State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones

CDFA/USDA continues to make significant progress towards eradicating virulent Newcastle disease, completing freedom of disease testing, and are on track to release the regional quarantine in the first half of June. An update will be posted on here when the regional quarantine is officially released.

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April 1, 2020

Virulent Newcastle Disease Update from State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones

During the COVID-19 crisis one item subject to shortages has been eggs. As a result, chicken keepers in the VND quarantine zone have asked if they can move eggs off their properties in order to share them with others.

The current quarantine order prohibits the movement of eggs without permission from CDFA because moving eggs from an infected flock to a home with an uninfected flock will start the outbreak all over again.  No one wants that!  However, there are some simple precautions that can be taken to allow this movement, particularly at a time when eggs are in such high demand.

The essential first step is to receive permission. People interested in moving eggs must contact SFSPermits@cdfa.ca.gov to receive a permit. Any unpermitted movement is a violation of the quarantine.

After receiving permission, it is vital to ensure the flock producing the eggs is healthy and is not a silent carrier of the virus.  If the flock has been consistently protected by the use of biosecurity and no new chickens have been added without a CDFA permit since 2019, the risk of infection is low.  Further, if the person taking the eggs does not have chickens and is not in contact with chickens, the risk of spread is close to zero. 

Additionally, the eggs must be cleaned and sanitized before leaving the premises, and egg suppliers should not accept used egg crates back unless they are non-porous and cleaned and sanitized ahead of time. 

I encourage you to review our website for detailed biosecurity information (https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/AHFSS/Animal_Health/BioSpecies/BioPoultry.html), but some basics include:  Do not allow visitors to the area where you keep your birds, use dedicated clothes and footwear when interacting with your birds and keep rodents away from your birds and out of their feed.  Our outbreak statistics show that you need to be extra cautious if you have more than 20 birds, greater than 50% roosters in your flock, or if you’re in a high-risk area.

Remember, eggs are a valuable source of nutrition and those that produce eggs have a responsibility to ensure they are safe to eat by following egg safety guidance.  Also, please be aware that in order to sell or market eggs, you must register as an Egg Handler with the CDFA Egg Safety and Quality Management Program. More information about egg safety and registration can be found at:https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/AHFSS/mpes/esqm.html.

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February 20, 2020

Virulent Newcastle Disease Update from State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones

This week brings some good news and, unfortunately, some disappointing news, as well. First, the good news - poultry farms continue to make significant biosecurity investments and our weekly testing has demonstrated that they remain free from VND.  More disappointing, however, is a detection of VND through our mandatory testing program. After almost 6 weeks with no cases, we found the virus in two additional backyard flocks in the Bloomington-area. Both flocks were showing signs of disease and laboratory results suggest that the disease may have been in at least one of the flocks for some time.

The owners did not call to report disease and it is possible that some birds were moved off of at least one of the properties before our arrival.  It's important to remember that this virus is highly contagious and lethal, so it always eventually shows up - the delay in contacting us simply leads to a bigger problem.   

Moving exposed birds results in one thing: more flocks becoming infected.  While the VAST majority of poultry owners in Southern California have taken the time to understand this disease and have made great sacrifices for the good of all Southern California poultry, a few continue to perpetuate this outbreak. 

Please observe the following:   

In the days and weeks ahead we will evaluate these recent detections and determine what they may mean for the entire VND quarantine area.  

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January 29, 2020

Virulent Newcastle Disease Update from State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones

Many southern California residents may be wondering why their local feed and pet stores do not have chicks for sale this spring.  While virus levels in the region are greatly reduced, VND continues to impact backyard flocks inside the regional quarantine area, as evidenced by the detection of more than 20 new cases this winter. DNA from these recent cases suggests they are all related, most likely from a single source with further spread due to bird movement, lax biosecurity, and commingling at feed and pet stores.  

Feed and pet stores provide a critical infrastructure for bird owners. Not only are they a source of feed, equipment and birds, they are also a gathering place for like-minded people where information and experiences can be shared. Unfortunately, this foot traffic also means that some customers may be carrying the virus on their shoes or clothing. When a store with this type of foot traffic also houses poultry, it gives the virus a chance to find a new host and become even more infectious.  Keeping poultry, including baby chicks, out of these important community businesses will help the region become VND free.

The best defense against the virus is to continue practicing good biosecurity.

Be aware of the signs of VND in your flock and report any sick birds to the CDFA Sick Bird Hotline (1-866-922-2473) right away.

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For previous CDFA VND Alerts, go below to the “Historical Virulent Newcastle Disease Incidents” Section on this page.