Virulent Newcastle Disease

Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) is a highly contagious viral avian disease that is characterized by rapid spread and high mortality rates. Many birds die without showing any clinical signs. A death rate of almost 100 percent can occur among unvaccinated flocks. Vaccinated birds are also susceptible to vND but at a lower death rate than vaccinated birds. Since vND affects the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems, infected birds may show a wide array of symptoms. Some symptoms include sneezing, coughing, watery green diarrhea, depression, drooping wings or complete paralysis.

Minnesota has never had a case of vND in poultry. However, a less serious form of the disease has been identified in wild waterfowl in the state in past years. Waterfowl have the ability to spread disease to poultry through droppings and nose, mouth and eye secretions. As a result, poultry producers have taken additional steps to keep their birds healthy by increasing biosecurity. Among other measures, one of the most effective ways to protect poultry is by making sure they are separated from wild birds.

Though deadly for birds, vND does not pose any significant risk to human health. Poultry and egg products are safe to consume. In rare cases, humans have contracted vND from infected birds, typically resulting in conjunctivitis with a rapid recovery. When infection is seen in humans, it is most common in laboratory workers, vaccinating crews, and rarely, in poultry handlers.