If you’ve noticed poultry gasping for air, trembling, drooping their wings or just dropping dead, you should take it seriously. A highly contagious avian disease was recently detected for the first time in Utah.
“Virulent Newcastle is an avian paramyxovirus. The virulent portion of it causes pretty sudden and acute death in just about all kinds of birds. There are a few exceptions of birds that will carry the disease and not show that drastic of signs,” said state veterinarian Dr. Barry Pittman who is with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
Pittman said virulent Newcastle Disease was brought to Utah by a backyard chicken owner, who moved chickens from a California area with an active outbreak to Utah. Luckily, the occurrence in Utah was quickly contained.
“We have this under control. We jumped on it pretty quick and put it out, so to speak. If we do have another case it may not be related to this at all,” Pittman said.
The disease isn’t harmful to humans but is devastating for birds. The virus spreads via fluids from infected birds. But anything that comes in contact with viral particles can transmit the disease: bird droppings, farming equipment and even dust. Although there is a vaccine for the virus, it isn’t very effective. Because it can be spread so many ways, and there isn’t an effective way to prevent death once infection occurs, Pittman urges Utahns to use an abundance of caution.
“Throughout Utah, if anybody has any problems at all with their poultry – whether it’s backyard flocks, commercial flocks, it doesn’t matter – we have several foreign animal disease diagnosticians that were trained at Plum Island. We treat all of these seriously. We’ll do sampling on just about anything after conversations with whoever owns the birds. Even above caution we will still go out and do sampling,” Pittman said.