Exotic Newcastle Disease

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery December 05, 2013 Print Friendly and PDF

Exotic Newcastle disease is one of the most highly contagious viral diseases affecting birds, especially chickens. The virus is capable of surviving in the environment, and birds may become infected by coming into contact with contaminated clothing, equipment, feed, or water. Exotic Newcastle disease can spread rapidly from bird to bird through bodily secretions, feces, and saliva. The United States has suffered several outbreaks of the disease caused by smuggling pet birds, poultry, and/or illegal poultry products into the country.

Where Is the Disease Found?

Asia, Africa, as well as Central and South America. The United States and Canada are considered free of Exotic Newcastle disease.

Can the Disease Affect People? 

Exotic Newcastle disease is not considered a threat to public health. However, the disease has been found to cause mild conjunctivitis (pink eye) in people working closely with sick birds.

What are Signs of the Disease?

  • Sudden death
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Paralysis including leg dragging and droopy wings
  • Watery, green diarrhea
  • Decline in egg production
  • Coughing
  • Swelling of the tissues of the head and neck
  • Eggs are abnormal in color, shape, or surface, and have a watery albumen

Can It Be Treated?

The clinical signs of Exotic Newcastle disease are indistinguishable from those of Avian Influenza. Therefore, laboratory testing must be conducted to distinguish between them. There is no specific treatment for Exotic Newcastle disease, and nearly 100 percent of birds that get the disease die. Any bird suspected of having Exotic Newcastle disease should be reported to the State Veterinarians or USDA Area Veterinarian in Charge immediately.

How Can the Disease Be Prevented?

All susceptible poultry should receive an appropriate Exotic Newcastle disease vaccine series. Although the vaccine does increase resistance to the virus, it does not provide complete protection, and outbreaks can still occur.

Simple farm biosecurity procedures can prevent the spread of Exotic Newcastle disease into the United States. Any bird entering the country must go through proper channels to help ensure the health of U.S. flocks. Other measures include separating commercial and backyard flocks from wild birds that can be carriers of the disease, limiting direct human contact with flocks, and using proper cleaning and disinfection procedures.

Where Can I Find Additional Information?

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.