Deadly chicken disease spreads to Bay Area, flocks at risk

REDWOOD CITY — The live poultry show has been canceled at this spring’s San Mateo County Fair. A major Peninsula veterinary hospital is postponing all chicken appointments. And worried Bay Area backyard bird hobbyists are taking special steps to protect their flocks.

News that a highly contagious and deadly bird virus was detected at a veterinary clinic in Redwood City on Thursday has alarmed the Bay Area’s poultry community, indicating that the dreaded Virulent Newcastle Disease has moved north from Southern California.

The disease, first reported on May 17 in Riverside County, has led to the euthanasia of nearly 500,000 backyard and commercial birds in Southern California.

“The really big concern is the spread into commercial flocks,” said Richard Blatchford, a poultry specialist at UC Davis Department of Animal Science. It has already been found in three commercial facilities in Riverside County.

“It can wipe out an entire farm very quickly,” he said.

The disease causes only mild symptoms in humans, but it can kill chickens, turkeys, cockatoos, cockatiels – and occasionally wild birds such as cormorants, pelicans and gulls.

The new case – the first ever in Northern California – likely occurred in a bird that was transported from Southern California, where the outbreak began in backyard exhibition birds in Riverside County.

“We are in uncharted territory in terms of its spread about the state,” said UC’s Blatchford.

Southern California was also where the last outbreak occurred in 2003, which eventually led to infections in commercial flocks.

The region is a center for specialty bird breeders, likely in part because of the city’s year-round warm weather, according to California state veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones in a report in the American Veterinary Medicine Association. Small chicken farms and slaughterhouses supply local food and fill niche markets.

Most infections have occurred among chickens raised at homes on the outskirts …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Health


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