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Virulent Newcastle Disease

California is now free of the virulent Newcastle disease, and the quarantine is Southern California has been lifted!
Since May 2018 when the disease was first detected, over 1.2 million birds have died or been killed because of this outbreak.

"SACRAMENTO, June 1, 2020 – The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have announced an end to the Virulent Newcastle Disease (VND) quarantine in Southern California."
Full news release here.


Virulent Newcastle Disease is a highly contagious deadly respiratory disease caused by a virus that can kill up to 100% of affected flocks. It also can be carried by and infect other birds – including wild birds and pet birds.

Virulent Newcastle disease is a reportable disease. All infected birds and birds who came in contact with infected birds will be killed by the CDFA.

Very strict biosecurity is key to protect your chickens and all the chickens in California.

We are taking the following measures at our micro-sanctuary to protect our birds:

  • We are not taking any new birds in.

  • We are not bringing any birds to any event.

  • We are restricting access to the chicken area.

  • We are following strict biosecurity when going with the chickens:

    • Wear dedicated boots​.

    • Wear clean clothes (must not have been in contact with any other birds).

What you should do to limit risk for your backyard flock:

  1. Keep a closed flock.
    Do not add new chickens at this time, and don't move your chickens out.

  2. Do not visit other chickens or any birds.
    If you are around other chickens: shower, wash clothes and shoes before being with your own flock.

  3. Do not have any chicken or bird owners visiting your chickens.
    If they must, have them wear disposable booties / shoe covers and clean clothes.

How does it look like with a backyard flock?



















  • How is it transmitted?
    It is transmitted directly from infected birds to healthy birds, but can also be transmitted via boots, clothing, and equipment exposed to feces, feathers, dander, and bodily fluid from infected birds.


  • What's the mortality rate?
    90-100% for unvaccinated birds and 30-90% in vaccinated birds.


  • What species does it impact?
    The birds most susceptible to the disease are chickens, pigeons, and those in the parrot family as well as some wild waterfowl, like cormorants. Birds less susceptible include turkeys and waterfowl. 


  • How long does it last in the environment?
    The virus can stay up to a year in the environment.


  • Is it treatable?


  • What can kill the virus?
    Oxidizing agents like Virkon S are effective at killing it. The presence of organic material reduces the efficacy of Virkon S which is why you need to scrub your boots before disinfecting. The virus is also sensitive to Chlorhexidine and UV light.


  • Is there a vaccine?
    The current strain is new and particularly virulent. The existing vaccines offer some protection, BUT protection is moot – should your backyard be included in the mandatory euthanasia quarantine zone, vaccine status does not matter, your birds will be euthanized. And should your bird survive this new strain, they will be a carrier and likely infect other birds. Also vaccination needs to be repeated every 6 months.


  • What should I do if I see symptoms?
    Should any bird develop significant respiratory illness or you experience a sudden spike in mortality, call the sick bird hotline first (866-922-2473). They will cover testing costs of your live (or passed) bird. Do not move that bird offsite; ask your veterinarian to offer supportive care advice over the phone.


  • How long will this last?
    This will likely go on for many months. The virus thrives in wet, moist, cold environments and we are getting a lot of that in both southern and northern California.

Useful links

From the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA):

From Adobe Animal Hospital:

In the news:

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