California Dolphin: statewide California news

54,000 chickens euthanized after Newcastle disease outbreak in Southern California

An outbreak of the bird-killing Newcastle disease has resulted in nearly 54,000 birds — mostly chickens — being euthanized in the greater Los Angeles area, with mandatory euthanasia operations ongoing in three areas.
Efforts continue in neighborhoods in Compton in Los Angeles County, Muscoy in San Bernardino County and in the Mira Loma area of Riverside County. The disease, first identified by officials in mid-May, has been eradicated from eight other areas in those three counties as well as Ventura County.
Virulent Newcastle disease, formerly known as exotic Newcastle disease, is a contagious and fatal viral disease affecting nearly all species of birds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture .
There is no cure, vaccinated birds can be infected and birds can die without displaying symptoms.
“In rare cases, humans that have exposure to infected birds may get eye inflammation or mild fever-like symptoms,” according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s disease alert . “These signs generally resolve without treatment, however medical care should be sought if symptoms persist.
“No human cases of Newcastle disease have ever occurred from eating poultry products. Properly cooked poultry products are safe to eat.”
Common questions about the disease:
How does the problem compare to previous outbreaks?
The current outbreak is relatively small compared with the last rash of cases in the state.
In 2002 and 2003, nearly four million birds on 2,500 premises were euthanized, according to Steve Lyle of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. That included 22 commercial poultry operations.
So far this time, no commercial operations have been effected.
“The vast majority of the birds euthanized have been backyard chickens,” Lyle said. “Additional types of birds that have been euthanized include several hundred pigeons, several dozen doves, a few turkeys and four geese.”
How is Newcastle disease spread?
Healthy birds can become infected when they come in direct contact with bodily fluids from sick birds.
“The virus can travel on manure, egg flats, crates, other farming materials or equipment, and people who have picked up the virus on their clothing, shoes or hands,” according to the USDA.
What are the symptoms displayed in birds?
Sudden death, sneezing, gasping for air, nasal discharge, coughing, greenish diarrhea, tremors and swelling around the eyes and neck.
How can it be prevented?
The USDA recommends bird owners avoid visits to other poultry farms or bird owners. Those who do make visits should change clothes and clean their hands and shoes before entering their own bird area.
Birds returning from shows should be isolated from other birds for 30 days. New birds should also be separated from other birds for at least 30 days. Egg trays, crates, vehicles and tires should be disinfected.
Sick birds — as well birds in the areas with mandatory euthanasia — should be reported immediately to the CDFA at 866-922-2473 or the USDA at 866-536-7593.
How are bird locations identified in the areas with mandatory euthanasia?
“We survey neighborhoods and knock on doors,” Lyle said. “Nearly 110,000 homes have been reached by personal contact by CDFA and USDA staff since May.”
What is the response from bird owners?
“No one wants their birds euthanized,” Lyle said. “In fact, we don’t like the idea of euthanizing birds at all, but we know scientifically that this is the only option that will stop the spread of the virus and eradicate the disease.
“Most residents understand what we’re all up against when we share specific information with them, particularly if they have seen what this virus does to poultry. It is a highly contagious killer of poultry.”
How are the birds euthanized?
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They are gassed with CO2 in compliance with the American Veterinary Medial Association Humane Standards.
They are then triple bagged and disposed of in “a landfill under specific critera and CDFA oversight,” Lyle said.
When is the outbreak expected to be eradicated?
“We will be working for a minimum of four months after the last birds are euthanized to ensure that properties remain fallow — free from birds,” Lyle said. “If a positive case is found during that time, the minimum four-month clock starts anew.”
 

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