USDA announces end to virulent Newcastle disease quarantine

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The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced an end to the virulent Newcastle disease quarantine in Southern California. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

The California Department of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have announced an end to the virulent Newcastle disease quarantine in Southern California Monday, June 1.

Extensive testing of the regulated area has been completed, with no additional detections of the disease. It 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,” Karen Ross, secretary of CDFA, said. “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.”

Virulent Newcastle disease was first detected in May 2018 in Los Angeles County. By December 2018, the virus had spread extensively in backyard poultry in the Los Angeles 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. The CDFA retains the authority to monitor and test poultry so that any future infections can be stopped quickly, minimizing potential harm.

Additionally, the CDFA and the 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 incidents of suspected VND or other bird diseases.

“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.” Dr. Annette Jones, California state veterinarian, said.

Virulent Newcastle disease is a virus that affects birds with particularly lethal effects on poultry, affecting the digestive, nervous and respiratory systems. 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 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.

“Anza Valley Hardware is now taking orders for chicks that will be arriving June 22,” Kathie Nuciforo Beale said. “If you’re looking for chicks, this is a place to come.”

Local poultry breeders are firing up their incubators and selling off excess stock. Restrictions prevented the movement and sale of eggs and birds for over two years.

More information is available at http://www.cdfa.ca.gov or through the California Avian Health Education Network at 866-922-2473.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.