Newcastle disease is a highly contagious viral disease that affects poultry. Caused by the Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV), it can lead to significant losses in poultry, which in many cases includes chickens, but is also known to affect turkeys, ducks, geese, and other birds.
Poultry producers must take steps to prevent the spread of Newcastle disease, as there is no cure once birds are infected. Whilst vaccination is considered an effective method of prevention, good biosecurity practices can also help to reduce the risk of infection.
If you suspect that your birds may be infected with Newcastle disease, farm businesses should contact their veterinarian or the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) or the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) immediately. An early diagnosis is critical to preventing the spread of the disease.
Much like avian influenza (AI), the Newcastle Disease Virus is constantly evolving, and new strains of the virus can emerge that are able to infect previously vaccinated birds. This makes it important for poultry producers to stay up-to-date on the latest information about the disease, and to ensure they safeguard their poultry to continually protect them from newer strains of the virus.
What are the origins of Newcastle disease?
The disease was first identified in Java, Indonesia in 1926, and in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England in 1927. However, it is believed that the disease may have been present as early as 1898, when a disease outbreak resulted in the death of domestic fowl in Scotland.
Currently, Newcastle disease is classed as endemic in many parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, and South America.
What are the symptoms of Newcastle disease?
Infected birds may show signs of:
- Respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling and rattling
- Unusually watery diarrhoea that are yellowish-green in colour
- Muscular tremors, droopy wings, opisthotonus, circling, and complete paralysis
- A complete, or partial drop in egg production and thin-shelled eggs
- Swelling of tissues around the eyes and in the neck
A diagnosis of Newcastle disease can be made by a veterinarian based on the signs and symptoms seen in an infected bird. A laboratory test, such as a virus isolation or serology, may also be used to confirm the diagnosis.
How does Newcastle disease spread?
Newcastle disease is highly contagious, and is known to spread particularly quickly amongst domestic poultry in confinement. It can spread quickly in a number of ways. The disease can be spread through direct contact between sick and healthy birds, through the droppings and secretions of infected birds, the birds feathers, manure and other materials.
In warm and humid conditions, the virus can actually survive for several weeks, meaning the risk of transmission is increased, through staff, contaminated equipment, clothing, or shoes.
The virus can also be spread by infected wild birds that are infected with the disease, with the signs of infection typically appearing within two to twelve days after exposure through the air.
Is there a treatment for Newcastle disease?
There is no specific treatment for Newcastle disease. Infected birds must be depleted and disposed of in order to prevent any further spread of the disease.
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When it comes to protecting your flock, there is no substitute for biosecurity measures.
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Contact the Livetec team today to find out more about how we can help you keep poultry safe from a potential disease outbreak here.