Exotic Newcastle disease spreads out of California

Feb 7, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – Exotic Newcastle disease (END) has continued to spread through southern California poultry flocks and has spilled over into Nevada and Arizona in recent weeks, prompting emergency declarations in both states.

Almost 1.9 million birds in six southern California counties have been destroyed in the effort to stop the fatal and highly contagious disease, according to the latest figures from the END Task Force of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

In Arizona, Gov. Janet Napolitano declared an emergency this week after END turned up on a farm near Poston, on the Colorado River Indian Tribes' reservation near the California line. The farmer reported that about 30 chickens had died suddenly, the Associated Press reported. The emergency declaration, issued Feb 5, bars the transport of poultry into the state without a health certificate and also requires disinfection of any poultry-related equipment brought in from END-affected areas.

In mid-January, the disease was found in a backyard poultry flock in Las Vegas, which triggered a ban on the movement and sale of all birds and poultry in southern Nevada (Clark County and part of Nye County), according to the Nevada Department of Agriculture. The discovery also led the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to declare a state of "extraordinary emergency" in Nevada as of Jan 17, permitting the department to take special measures to stop the disease, according to a Jan 24 notice in the Federal Register.

Slightly more than 1.8 million birds on six poultry farms in California have been slaughtered in the battle against END to date, according to the state END Task Force. In addition, more than 89,000 birds in 1,580 backyard flocks in the state have been killed. Another 1,670 birds in 96 backyard flocks have been slaughtered in Nevada, and one flock of 50 birds has been destroyed in Arizona, the task force reported.

All birds in flocks where there have been END cases or exposure to the disease are being destroyed, according to the task force. The owners are being paid the fair market value for the slaughtered birds, and the affected sites are being cleaned and disinfected. A total of 1,710 people are working on controlling the outbreak in the three affected states as of today, the task force reported.

Eight California counties are under a quarantine that bans the transport of birds or bird products out of the counties without a USDA permit. The disease has been confirmed in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura counties; Imperial and Santa Barbara counties were included in the quarantine to create a buffer zone, according to the CDFA.

The END outbreak was first detected in backyard poultry flocks in Los Angeles County on Oct 1, 2002. The disease affects most bird species and can be almost 100% fatal in unvaccinated poultry, according to the USDA. In 1971, an END outbreak in California led to the slaughter of almost 12 million birds, hurt many poultry producers, and increased the prices of poultry products, according to the CDFA.

Health authorities say END poses no threat to public health and does not affect the safety of poultry or eggs. A news release from the Arizona governor's office this week said that people who handle infected birds can get a mild inflammation of tissues surrounding the eye, but the disease is not a serious risk to human health.

See also:

California Department of Food and Agriculture END page

USDA Federal Register notice of emergency declaration in Nevada

Newsletter Sign-up

Get CIDRAP news and other free newsletters.

Sign up now»


Unrestricted financial support provided by

Bentson Foundation 3MAccelerate DiagnosticsGilead 
Grant support for ASP provided by


  Become an underwriter»