University of California

Virulent Newcastle Disease Outbreak Information and Resources

May 18, 2018:

Hello backyard poultry enthusiasts, 

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has identified a case of Virulent Newcastle Disease (VND) in a small flock of backyard exhibition chickens in Los Angeles County. The case was detected at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory (CAHFS) when a private practitioner submitted a sick bird for testing.  This is the first case of virulent Newcastle disease, previously referred to as exotic Newcastle disease, in the U.S. since 2003. CDFA is working with federal and local partners as well as poultry owners to respond to the finding. State officials have quarantined potentially exposed birds and are testing for the disease.

The USDA and CDFA's bird owner resource for this outbreak can be found here, and the Spanish version can be found here.

Virulent Newcastle Disease is a highly contagious and deadly virus in birds; the virus is found in respiratory discharges and feces. Clinical signs in birds include: 

  • sneezing
  • coughing 
  • nasal discharge 
  • green watery diarrhea 
  • depression 
  • neck twisting 
  • circling 
  • muscle tremors 
  • paralysis
  • decreased egg production 
  • swelling around eyes and neck 
  • sudden death      



Example of twisted neck (PC: Pamela Hullinger).
Example of twisted neck (PC: Pamela Hullinger).


It is essential that all poultry owners follow good biosecurity practices to help protect their birds from infectious diseases such as Newcastle. These include simple steps like washing hands and scrubbing boots before and after entering a poultry area; cleaning and disinfecting tires and equipment before moving them off the property; and isolating any birds returning from shows for 30 days before placing them with the rest of the flock. 

For backyard flock owners, biosecurity measures are to use dedicated shoes and clothes when caring for them and not to use/wear those clothes/shoes in other areas.

Additional information on biosecurity can be found at:

In addition to practicing good biosecurity, all bird owners should report sick birds or unusual bird deaths through California’s Sick Bird Hotline at 866-922-BIRD (2473). Additional information on VND and biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at CDFA's Virulent Newcastle Disease Updates webpage.

Sick or dead backyard birds can be submitted to CAHFS laboratories for post-mortem examination ($20 plus shipping and handling).  Information on this program can be found at CDFA's CAHFS Laboratory Necropsy Services for California Backyard Poultry Owners webpage.

For additional information on who to contact for issues regarding backyard poultry, see:
Find an Expert

Virulent Newcastle disease is not a food safety concern. No human cases of Newcastle disease have ever occurred from eating poultry products. Properly cooked poultry products are safe to eat. In very rare instances people working directly with sick birds can become infected. Symptoms are usually very mild, and limited to conjunctivitis and/or influenza-like symptoms. Infection is easily prevented by using standard personal protective equipment. 

Please feel free to share widely. 




Información sobre el brote de Newcastle virulento en California para dueños de aves de traspatio esta disponible aquí.

Webmaster Email: mepitesky@ucdavis.edu