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Newcastle Disease Alert

Last week, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health received a report from Michelle Carstensen with the Minnesota DNR that Double-crested Cormorants (DCCO) in Minnesota have been identified with Newcastle Disease (Avian Paramyxovirus-1).  The DCCO mortality began August 7, 2018 at Chautauqua Lake (Lye Lake) in Ottertail County, approximately 5 miles southeast of Fergus Falls, MN. Dead and sick cormorants were on two islands near each other, most birds left the island when approached by boat, most including the young of the year could fly. Approximately 25 of the young of the year could not fly, they could only use one wing. The other wing hung at the side and was not being used. Two were seen in the water and had trouble holding their heads up. Most of the carcasses appeared to be dead for some time. Turkey Vultures were feeding in the area.  Two DCCO were collected on August 7; one was found dead and the other was euthanized by cervical dislocation.  Both of the cormorants submitted were positive for avian paramyxovirus-1 (APMV-1) by matrix PCR; and have tested negative for avian influenza viruses. Virus isolation and further characterization to determine if this finding is the virulent form of Newcastle Disease are pending.

A history of vND has been known to occur at this location in years past.  There is no connection of this diagnosis in cormorants with the virulent Newcastle Disease situation in California's backyard poultry.  Virulent Newcastle Disease has not been found in commercial poultry in Minnesota.

History of vND in Minnesota double-crested cormorants - Double-crested cormorants (DCCO) seem to be highly susceptible to Newcastle Disease virus (AMPV-1) and it has been observed in this species in the past (2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016).  vND was last detected in Minnesota DCCO in 2016 from Mille Lacs, Big Stone, Pope, McLeod, Faribault and Rice counties in Minnesota.  The time of the year is similar as samples in 2016 were collected during July of that year.  In 1992, multiple mortality events occurred in DCCO colonies across the Great Lakes, upper Midwest and Canada, killing an estimated 35,000 birds.

Poultry Producers - Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) is a highly contagious, viral disease that affects all species of birds. The disease spreads rapidly and causes high mortality rates, sometimes without the birds ever showing any signs of sickness.  vND is spread primarily through direct contact between healthy and sick birds through droppings and secretions from the beak, mouth, and eyes.  Birds infected with vND may show any of the following symptoms: sudden death, lack of energy and appetite, decreased egg production, diarrhea, nervous system disorders (tremors, paralysis), and severe respiratory symptoms such as nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing.  Spread to humans by close contact with sick birds; Newcastle Disease rarely affects people. 

Symptoms include conjunctivitis, a relatively mild inflammation of the inner eyelids.  Wild birds can be a potential source of Newcastle Disease and can transmit the virus to domestic poultry if there is contact with them.  The Board recommends poultry producers, large and small, increase their on-farm biosecurity practices to prevent introductions into their poultry operations. 

Such practices include visitor and vehicle restrictions, preventing wild bird introductions (especially birds that tend to nest in or feed with domestic birds), controlling movements associated with the disposal and handling of bird carcasses, litter, and manure and monitoring poultry flocks for any signs of illness.  Testing sick birds at a poultry diagnostic laboratory is essential in order to establish an accurate disease diagnosis. It is important that poultry producers keep a watchful eye on their own flocks, as well as wild birds in their area. 

Through careful biosecurity measures and diligent observation, Minnesota's poultry producers can prevent the introduction of this disease into their poultry operations.  If producers observe birds showing any of the clinical signs listed above, they should immediately contact their veterinarian or the Board (320-231-5170).

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