Newcastle disease (ND) is a highly contagious disease of birds caused by a paramyxo virus. Many species of birds, including commercial, wild and pet birds, can be affected. The disease is a worldwide problem and sporadic outbreaks occur frequently. The last outbreak in chickens and turkeys in the UK was in 1997. It occurred in pheasants in 2005 and in partridges in 2006.
Defra monitors the occurrence of major animal disease outbreaks worldwide as an early warning to assess the risk these events may pose to the UK. International disease monitoring assessments are available.
About the disease
Affected birds may show a range of signs from mild illness to severe disease with dullness, loss of appetite, coughing, sneezing, diarrhoea and nervous signs. Hens may stop laying, or the eggs may be mis-shapen. In severe outbreaks a high proportion of infected birds may die. Chickens are very susceptible; ducks and geese are less so, and birds of the parrot family may carry mild strains for many months without showing any signs of illness. Statutory action to control ND is taken only for strains which are classified as “virulent”.
- Wild birds may be implicated in the introduction of the disease to domestic poultry.
- Direct contact with secretions from infected birds, especially faeces.
- Contaminated vehicles, equipment, personnel, clothing, water or feed.
It is vital that all bird keepers in the UK continue to practice the highest levels of biosecurity and be vigilant for any signs of disease. Early reporting, rapid action, biosecurity, culling and surveillance remain the most effective way of disease prevention.
If ND is suspected or confirmed in poultry or other captive birds in Great Britain, various disease control measures would come into effect on the premises and surrounding area in accordance with the Diseases of Poultry Order.
The measures that would be required in an outbreak can be grouped as:
- Measures on suspicion of ND
- Measures on confirmation of ND in poultry
- Measures on confirmation of ND in other captive birds
The Diseases of Poultry Order also covers vaccination in the event of an outbreak.
ND is subject to statutory control in both EU and domestic legislation. Domestic legislation includes regulations to reduce the chance of importing disease, and provides powers to control and eradicate outbreaks of ND. It also prohibits the feeding of waste food to poultry.