Delaware Public Media

Delaware paying attention to Virulent Newcastle Disease outbreak out west

Feb 12, 2019

First State Ag officials are keeping an eye on an outbreak of virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) in California.


The Newcastle Disease outbreak began there in May 2018 and the Delaware Department of Agriculture is issuing an advisory to make people locally aware, especially those in the state’s poultry industry.

State Veterinarian Dr. Heather Hirst says the advisory covers backyard and commercial and non-commercial flock owners. She notes vND is a viral disease.


“That affects 250 different species of birds. Most important to us in Delaware of course, are chicken,” Hirst said.

Dr. Hirst says the disease is not normally found in the United States and in the past only affected wild birds in Delaware. She adds it’s unclear how it reached California and killed 10,000 backyard birds there.

“The closest country that does tolerate and have the disease is Mexico. And so because of the proximity that is one theory that is out there,” said Hirst.

She says infected birds may have been smuggled into California from Mexico.


Dr. Hirst says several precautions can be taken to protect birds.

“Different examples of how to keep this out of your farm are to minimize visitors. If you’re purchasing birds or bringing in birds from any other source, you should know something about the flock that your buying the birds from, to ensure that the flock where you’re buying your birds from that they’re healthy and not harboring illness,” Hirst said.

Signs of vND include sudden death, sneezing and nasal discharge. The Ag Dept recommends immediately calling them or a veterinarian if a change in a flock is seen.


The vND virus does not pose a threat to human health or food safety. In very rare instances, people working directly with sick birds can become infected with mild symptoms, such as conjunctivitis.

You can read more about vND here, as well as see other symptoms of the disease.