Newcastle disease is a highly contagious disease of birds caused by a para-myxo virus. Birds affected by this disease are fowls, turkeys, geese, ducks, pheasants, partridges, guinea fowl and other wild and captive birds, including ratites such ostriches, emus and rhea.
The disease is transmitted through infected birds' droppings and secretions from the nose, mouth, and eyes. The disease is spread primarily through direct contact between healthy birds and the bodily discharges of infected birds. Virus-bearing material can also be picked up on shoes and clothing and carried from an infected flock to a healthy one.
Possible routes of transmission therefore include contact between poultry and also through movements of contaminated vehicles, equipment, manure, feed and water.
The virus can survive for several weeks in a warm and humid environment on birds' feathers, manure, and other materials.
Effective vaccines are available and some poultry are vaccinated routinely.
Following a number of outbreaks of a virulent strain of Newcastle Disease in small poultry flocks, commercial layers and other captive birds in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, the risk of a disease outbreak in GB has been raised from low to Medium (meaning ‘outbreak likely to occur’).
Although the risk has increased, government has advised that shows and gatherings can still take place subject to increased vigilance and rigid compliance with a biosecurity plan, as required by the current General Licence. As an added precaution we are advising organisers of gatherings to require all exhibitors and participants to complete and sign a declaration, confirming that birds at the event have not been outside of the UK within the last 21 days and that none of the birds are showing any signs of, or have been in contact with birds showing any clinical signs of Newcastle Disease.
In Great Britain, isolated cases of this disease were first reported in the 1930s. From 1947 outbreaks occurred here over the next 30 years, and there were further isolated cases in 1984 and 1996-7. The most recent case was during October/November 2006 in East Lothian.
The best defence - as with all exotic animal diseases - is a high level of awareness and good biosecurity. Poultry keepers and businesses in Scotland are reminded of the importance of maintaining biosecurity in their flocks and being vigilant to any signs of disease in their birds.
We have published a new biosecurity leaflet for all bird keepers and detailed guidance advising poultry keepers how to minimise the risk of infection on their premises.
If you suspect Newcastle Disease is present in your flock, you must tell your nearest Animal and Plant and Health Agency (APHA) office immediately. Failure to do so can be deemed an offence.
Further information on biosecurity and good practice is available via the links below:
Bird gatherings are permitted (outside any specific control zones which may be in force) but must comply with all of the conditions in the bird fairs, markets, shows and other gatherings general licence.
The general licence allows the collecting together of poultry and other captive birds from more than one source at one location, while minimising the risk of disease spreading between flocks. The licence allows bird gatherings to proceed subject to conditions and prior notification to the Inverness Animal and Plant Health Agency Office.
If holding or attending a bird gathering, you must read and adhere to the conditions within the general licence. You may also wish to read our guidance for the conduct of bird fairs, markets, shows and other gatherings. Non-compliance with the general licence may constitute an offence and a person may be liable to a term not exceeding six months in prison, and/or a £5,000 fine on conviction.
Should the risk change, the veterinary risk assessment will be revised, subsequently the general licence may be amended or revoked.
Biosecurity measures should also be considered at events that do not require general licensing, such as sales or showing of birds from single flocks on premises at which other bird events may take place. The following measures should be taken:
- All litter and manure within the cages, crates or baskets must be contained until disposal; any spillages outside the cage to be cleansed and disinfected immediately
- All litter and manure must be disposed of in a manner which does not present a risk of spread of the disease (e.g. in sealed bags for normal refuse collection, so that other birds do not have direct access to it)
- All exhibitors/entrants must be instructed to cleanse and disinfect the show cages, crates or baskets before the event and advise them that the show cages, crates or baskets should be cleansed and disinfected on return to the home premises and before they are used to hold any other bird.
Great Britain Poultry Register
There is a legal requirement for all commercial poultry keepers with 50 or more birds to register their premises. The voluntary registration of premises with fewer than 50 birds is encouraged.
You can find out more information about registration here: https://www.gov.uk/poultry-registration