Virus Threatens California’s Fowl
NOT THE ONE YOU'RE PROBABLY THINKING OF
Image by: Save Our Birds (https://www.facebook.com/pg/kerri.sobsaveourbirds/photos/?ref=page_internal)
The Newcastle Disease (ND) -- a viral disease that’s highly contagious -- has been spreading like wildfire through California and has created substantial controversy. This deadly viral disease mostly affects birds like turkey, quail, and chickens, which has had a devastating impact on farmers small and large for the past year. To control this viral outbreak, the US government has set up quarantine zones in certain Southern California counties with a high prevalence of the disease. Basically, most birds in Southern Cal are on LOCKDOWN. Unfortunately, because quarantining hasn’t been enough to halt the ND’s spread so far, officials have started euthanizing birds within general areas of positively infected farms or backyard yard chickens. The reason these events have only recently gotten public attention is due to an inflammatory Facebook video. The video shows a woman’s chickens being forcefully euthanized by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) enforcers, it quickly shot up to about 250k views, the filmer identified herself as Kerri Hand who claimed that 20 of her chickens were wrongly killed right in front of her. This story has received attention from LA Times and has stirred an “up in arms” reaction from some southern cal bird owners -- being afraid that their birds may be next!
Real Dangers of the Newcastle Disease Although humans are rarely infected with ND from eating chickens contaminated with the virus, it’s still considered a virus of high concern to the American public. The USDA states that “Virulent Newcastle disease is one of the most serious poultry diseases worldwide. A death rate of almost 100 percent can occur in unvaccinated poultry flocks. Virulent Newcastle disease can infect and cause death even in vaccinated poultry” The real dangers of ND aren’t to humans but to agriculture, local businesses and US trade. There’s 3 prominent dangers of ND that could affect everybody (1) The number of birds that could die, a lot being considered family pets/members (2) Nation’s financial burden of prevention and quarantine (3) The threat upon the nations egg and poultry supply. This highly contagious virus has caused a lot of damage in the past as well. In 1971, a major ND outbreak caused 12 million birds to be euthanized, costing $56 million to end, and seriously threatened the nation’s entire egg and poultry supply. Then, 30 years later 3.2 million birds were euthanized as a result of yet another outbreak and racked a large bill of $161 million from start to finish. The CFSPH states that the cause of these quick-spreading outbreaks is “from the illegal imports of exotic birds.” which is then easily spread because “ The virus can live for a long time in the environment and can be spread by objects (fomites), such as shoes, clothing, and equipment, that have become contaminated by infected birds”  .
Has the CDFA Gone Too Far? In light of these facts, it is no wonder why the government is taking this outbreak very seriously. Although, there are still some locals who believe that the CDFA is going “too far”. The preventative measures in question being the euthanization of perfectly healthy chickens that have shown no sign of infection (asymptomatic). One member of the “Save our Birds” Facebook group sums up her strong opinions of the euthanization squads: “The CDFA/USDA has been harassing andtormenting the Riverside/SB communities for 2 yrs now. Killing family’s healthy pet birds right in front of their children.” such as “Peacocks, doves, pigeons and several hookbills. ” She goes on to describe “ They cut your locks when you are not home and call AC [animal control] if you have dogs. Threatening people with jail, liens on their homes, $150K per bird fines. ”  As this contentious subject rages on between enforcing agents and some bird owners, most birds are still in a state of limbo -- a lot of California counties aren’t allowed to transport chickens without a steep fine. But Ricardo Gaitan, a CDFA public information officer, highlights the importance of these measures by drawing a similarity between viruses and fires “You don’t wait for a tree or bush around the fire to cut down a tree, …you remove all the combustible material.”
Da-Le Ranch Saftey Measures & Thoughts Our ranch has implemented multiple safety measures, in order to track and prevent any outbreaks. Some of these safety measures include sanitization of all vehicles, equipment and persons whenever they enter or leave the farm. Also, all birds are swabbed and lab-tested bi-weekly to ensure that no breach of contaminants has occurred. Lastly, and very sadly, all tours have been postponed until the quarantine is lifted. To keep perspective, these outbreaks have occurred before and had been resolved in a year or more. The strict quarantines and safety measures can be stressful for our farm and create some due concern for the safety and health of our winged friends. But, we’re hopeful for the future and are doing everything from our side to keep our birds and farm safe.
References 1. http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/FastFacts/pdfs/newcastle_F.pdf 2. https://www.facebook.com/groups/348877789075792/
Written By Bryce Hallam For DA-LE RANCH