Media Coverage
May 18, 2003 to May 31, 2003
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Media Coverage - Main Page

Oakland Tribune, CA,1413,82~1726~1424687,00.html

Alameda County Fair cancels poultry shows
Other events around state also pull live exhibitions because of disease scare
By Paul Burgarino, STAFF WRITER

PLEASANTON -- Agricultural officials have plucked live poultry shows from several fairs around the state, including the Alameda County Fair, because of fear of an avian disease.

The concern is that gathered birds could spread an exotic bird virus called Newcastle disease in the air or through contact with bird manure, cages, or handlers' clothing.

Eight counties in Southern California were quarantined after the discovery of infected chickens in backyard flocks last fall, which led to the cancellations.

The Stanislaus County Fair announced the cancellation of the show in January for its July 25 to Aug. 3 fair.

The San Joaquin County Fair and Mother Lode Fair in Sonora already have begun alternate means of poultry-themed fun, such as crafts and educational posters with poultry themes.

Poster contest

The Merced County Fair will have a poster contest about poultry breeds.

The Contra Costa County Fair in Antioch through the weekend, but the only chickens they will have are those people scared to go on any rides.

Instead of a live show, the local 4-H and FFA members will host an exhibit featuring stuffed chickens and poultry judged on showmanship. The fair will also put up posters to inform the public about the disease that is keeping the animals out of the exhibit.

Earlier this year, all fairs throughout the state were "strongly recommended" to suspend all poultry shows for the 2003 fair season.

In March, the Northern California Exotic Bird and Supply Exposition in Pleasanton was canceled because of concerns about spreading the disease.

The Alameda County Fair, which is the largest County Fair in Northern California, officially will not have a live poultry show, according to Marketing Manager April Chase.

"Live poultry exhibits have been banned all across the state," Chase said. "The state recommended that all fairs comply and not have poultry exhibits."

Creative alternatives

The fair still plans to have several exciting and creative alternatives to a live exhibit concerning poultry.

Festivities include an Avian Bowl "Quiz Show" Competition, in which teams of kids compete in a trivia contest concerning knowledge of poultry raising and showing, a Champion Exhibitor Contest/ Equipment Judging Contest in which a written test of knowledge about poultry and equipment will take place during junior week, and a chance to create-a-bird that is true to life size, using paper mache or other materials.

Other events include cage displays of educational projects and multimedia presentations.

"Hopefully the kids will be able to have fun," said Steve Brozosky, leader of the Abbie 4-H in Pleasanton. "It won't be the same without being able to have live chickens there."

"I feel we have done a great job in putting together creative alternatives," Chase said. "The 4H kids have been working hard for over a year dealing with the care of their animals, so we worked with them to find the best display we can."

"Having chickens at a fair is not worth wiping out the state's chicken flock." Brozosky added.

The disease could have devastating effects if it were to spread to the San Joaquin Valley's poultry industry.

The San Joaquin Valley produces 95 percent of the chickens raised for meat in California and has about 40 percent of the laying hens.

Poultry brings in about $3 billion dollars annually for California's farmers.

The last major outbreak of Newcastle disease in California occurred in 1971, when the disease crept into the commercial poultry stock and resulted in 12 million birds being destroyed and cost $56 million in eradication efforts.

A minor outbreak occurred in a backyard flock of game chickens in the Central Valley in 1998, which led to a temporary ban on imports for the area, costing local poultry producers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Yuma Sun, AZ

Newcastle quarantine quietly lifted by USDA for much of Arizona
BY JOYCE LOBECK, Business Editor
May 30, 2003

In what has been characterized as a "sleeper" announcement, the bird and poultry quarantine in Yuma County has been lifted after a task force found no evidence of Exotic Newcastle disease here, The Sun learned this week.

The quarantine was imposed Feb. 10 after the disease was found ina small flock of chickens near Poston. It prohibited the movement from the quarantined area of birds, poultry and products or materials that could spread the disease.

Exotic Newcastle disease is a highly contagious and fatal viral disease affecting the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and poultry.

On May 19, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published an announcement in the Federal Register amending its Newcastle regulations and removing Yuma and Mohave counties from quarantine. Nye and Clark counties in Nevada also were removed from the quarantine list.

According to the announcement, the revised rule was effective May 14.

Following that, the Arizona Department of Agriculture issued an administrative order with the same announcement, said Rae Chronenky, spokeswoman for the agency. The only area in Arizona currently still under quarantine is a part of La Paz County where the disease was found.

But Chronenky acknowleged it was a "sleeper" announcement, and that the news wasn't issued to the media.

The Sun learned of the action when a bird owner and breeder called the newspaper this week.

Chronenky said 1,451 investigations for the disease were conducted in Arizona by a state and federal task force. Of those, 60 were in Yuma County, 38 in Mohave County and 56 in La Paz County.

"Nothing was found in Yuma and Mohave," she said. "The only positive find was the original one on the (Colorado River Indian Tribes Reservation) near Poston."

While the free movement of birds and products is again allowed in Yuma County and from all but the quarantined areas, the disease continues to be a threat because of its presence in neighboring states, Chronenky said.

In California, Kern County has been added to the original eight counties under quarantine after an outbreak was found there. El Paso and Hudspeth counties in Texas and Dona Ana, Luna and Otero counties in New Mexico also are under quarantine.

Dr. Cheryl Haugo of the Desert Veterinary Clinic, who worked with the task force in its investigation, praised the response of the state and federal officials. "They did a good job. They came out and were on top of it."

A major problem caused by the quarantine in Yuma County was for winter visitors with pet birds who weren't allowed to take them out of the area when they returned home this spring, said Haugo.

Some delayed their return north until the quarantine was lifted while others were referred to pet sitters with whom they could leave their birds, she said.

While the threat is past, she said people need to be know where their bird came from originally. And they need to avoid traveling through quarantined areas with their birds.

Roseville Press Tribune, CA

Thursday, May 29, 2003
Fowl ailment raises concerns
By Gus Thomson
The Press-Tribune

Concerned about the spread of Exotic Newcastle Disease, the Placer County Agriculture Department wants bird owners to keep their birds at home.

The disease is highly contagious among poultry and other birds, with a mortality rate of almost 100 percent. But while the disease is usually fatal to poultry, it will not harm humans.

“Our most important message – for safety’s sake, keep your birds at home,” Agricultural Commissioner Christine Turner said. “People can also help us protect California’s birds by sharing information about the disease with friends or neighbors, reporting any sick or dying birds, anonymously reporting illegally smuggled birds, and watching your birds for any signs of sickness.”

Earlier this year, Auburn’s Gold Country Fair board decided to ban poultry at the fairgrounds until the Exotic Newcastle Disease crisis is over.

The ban – which prevents all birds from being exhibited at the September fair or being sold at the event’s Junior Livestock Auction – came in January after the California Exposition & State Fair in Sacramento imposed a similar moratorium for all bird exhibits and competitions this year.

The county Agricultural Department is taking a series of steps to keep the disease from spreading to Placer County. A federal quarantine restricts the movement of birds from eight Southern California counties, where the presence of the disease has been confirmed.

The viral disease hasn’t been detected in Placer County but the sale of live poultry at swap meets, food stores and bird marts is being prohibited.

The bans reflect concern that the disease could spread at livestock auctions and other businesses where many birds are often kept in close quarters.

In Placer County, businesses have been notified they may only sell newly hatched chicks with signed compliance permits from the state’s Exotic Newcastle Disease task force. The permits require sellers to provide information with each sale of chicks that educate buyers about the symptoms of the disease.

At Auburn’s Echo Valley Ranch, poultry continues to be sold but new regulations allow only employees wearing gloves to touch the birds. New bird owners are given a four-page document from the state Department of Food and Agriculture outlining the disease and ways to protect poultry.

The live-sale ban applies to chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, partridges, pheasants, quail, guinea fowl, pea fowl, doves, pigeons, grouse and swans. It also applies to emus, ostriches, rheas and other birds in the ratite category.

The birds can be infected with the disease and spread it while not showing any symptoms. Contagions can be carried in bird secretions and droppings, with transmission from bird to bird through material carried on shoes, clothing and vehicles.

North County Times, CA

Newcastle spending reaches $160 million
Staff Writer

The cost of fighting Exotic Newcastle disease has risen to more than $160 million, the task force in charge of eradicating it said Wednesday. Most of that money ---- $150,800,841 ---- has been spent in California.

That is a big change from $102 million the task force reported in late April.

"The reason there was a jump is because the federal government has paid the (California Department of Food and Agriculture) for money it has spent," said Adrian Woodfork, a spokesman for the task force. The task force is a partnership between the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Woodfork said that until now, the task force cost figures have included only what has been spent by the federal government. He said that the federal government recently reimbursed the state for money it has spent on things such as supplies and salaries.

Although a breakdown of how exactly the $150 million has been spent was not immediately available, Woodfork said that $20 million has been given to the owners of birds killed by the task force.

The task force kills all birds at a site where the disease is found. So far, it has killed nearly 3.5 million birds since the disease was discovered in a flock of backyard chickens in Compton in October. Approximately 500,000 of them have been killed in San Diego County.

How many more birds will be killed ---- and how much more will be spent killing them ---- is unclear.

However, Woodfork said that the rate at which the task force is finding infected flocks has slowed down dramatically.

In San Diego County, it has been 20 days since a flock has tested positive, he said. In all, at least 30 backyard and seven commercial flocks have tested positive since December. It has been even longer in other counties. In Riverside, it has been 28 days since a flock has tested positive, while in Ventura, it has been 55 days, and in San Bernardino, it has been 59 days.

Those counties, as well as Orange, Los Angeles, Imperial, Santa Barbara and part of Kern counties, are under a federal quarantine. The disease has not been found in Imperial or Santa Barbara counties, according to the task force, but they serve as "buffer zones" around the infected counties.

The disease was also discovered in small pockets of Arizona, Nevada and Texas, but the task force has said that all the infected birds in those states have been killed and the properties cleaned up.

The local commercial ranches to be hit with the disease are the Ramona Egg Ranch; the Armstrong Egg Enterprises on Cole Grade, Lilac and Mac Tan roads; the Foster Egg Ranch on Cole Grade Road; the Fluegge Egg Ranch on Twain Way; and Ward Egg Ranch on Fruitvale Road.

The cleanup process at the Fluegge Egg Ranch and Armstrong Egg Enterprises is done, and the ranches are said to be disease-free.

The last time a widespread outbreak of Exotic Newcastle hit California was 1971, and it cost the government $56 million. Adjusted for inflation, that figure is $253 million.

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760) 740-5412 or


Tri-Valley Herald, CA,1413,86~10671~1422110,00.html

County fairs can't have live poultry
Fears of disease limit exhibits to educational displays, hands-on crafts
By Paul Burgarino, STAFF WRITER

PLEASANTON -- Agricultural officials have plucked the live poultry shows from several fairs around the state, including the Alameda County Fair, because of fear of an avian disease.

Officials worry that gathered birds could spread Newcastle disease via the air or contact with bird manure, cages, or handlers' clothing.

Eight counties in Southern California were quarantined following the discovery of infected chickens in backyard flocks last fall, which led to the cancellations.

The Stanislaus County Fair announced the cancellation of the show in January for its July 25 to Aug. 3 fair.

The San Joaquin County Fair and Mother Lode Fair in Sonora already have begun alternate means of poultry-themed fun, such as crafts and educational posters with poultry themes.

The Merced County Fair will have a poster contest about poultry breeds.

El Paso Times, TX

Poultry disease 'no longer a threat'
Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times

A deadly poultry disease that led to the destruction of more than 2,000 birds and 1,000 Mexican Easter cascarones is no longer a danger in El Paso, animal health officials announced Wednesday.

A quarantine was imposed April 10 in El Paso and surrounding counties to prevent the movement of birds after a case of exotic Newcastle disease was confirmed in a flock of roosters in Socorro. The disease, which is not harmful to people, can decimate poultry flocks.

"We feel we have adequate evidence that the disease is no longer a threat to the area," said Max Coats Jr., deputy executive director and state veterinarian with the Texas Animal Health Commission.

The state lifted a quarantine preventing birds from moving within the county. A federal quarantine keeping birds from leaving El Paso and surrounding counties is still in effect but is expected to be lifted in coming weeks, officials said.

It was the first case in Texas of the disease, which prompted the destruction of 3.5 million birds in California last year.

DNA tests found that the strain of the disease in El Paso didn't match the strain in California but rather a strain found in Mexico three years ago, Coats said.

A task force, which at one time numbered 120 people and investigated 800 bird flocks, has been disbanded, officials said. A 24-hour hot line will be shut down.

More than 2,000 birds were "depopulated" to stop the spread of the disease, officials said. And cascarones, confetti-filled eggshells, were confiscated at the border as a precaution.

For information, call the Texas Animal Health Commission at (800) 550-8242 or the New Mexico Livestock Board at (505) 841-6161.

North County Times, CA

No birds permitted at this year's fair
Staff Writer

For the first time since the San Diego County Fair made its debut in Del Mar 37 years ago, chickens and a lot of other birds will have to stay home. Because of the outbreak in California of the deadly Newcastle Disease, feathered creatures have been banned from participating in this year's 21-day fair, and nobody is terribly pleased about it.

"In trying to eradicate the disease, (the task force) wants to really reduce the movement of birds," said Adrian Woodfork, a spokesman for the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force.

And limiting movement they are -- at the risk of a fine of up to $25,000 for violating the ban.

Kim Jacobson, livestock coordinator for the fair, said this is the first time in the 15 years she has worked for the fair that there have not been any bird displays.

"It causes a big hole in our show," she said. The 2003 San Diego County Fair starts June 13.

Farewell to 1,500

According to Jacobson, there were more than 1,000 chickens and 500 pigeons exhibited last year. There were also 38 turkeys and several exotic birds, she said. She said that the ban should not affect the fair financially because it usually gives out more in prize money in bird competitions than it takes in from entry fees.

Organizers of the fair announced earlier this year that it would not have bird exhibits after officials at the California Department of Agriculture recommended that California fair boards suspend all poultry shows this year. In March, the state-federal task force on Exotic Newcastle disease put a "ban" on all poultry exhibits.

Woodfork said that the ban on poultry exhibits will be in place at least as long as the federal quarantine is in place. The quarantine includes all of San Diego, Riverside, Orange, Imperial, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and parts of Kern County.

The right thing

While some exhibitors said they were disappointed by the news, most said that they think it is the right decision.

Steve Dasher, an advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Program, said that although some 4-H members may be disappointed by the decision not to allow birds, it is better for the overall health of the poultry.

"Since people can carry the virus on them, somebody from the general public might have the virus on them unknowingly and contaminate the birds that are on exhibit," he said. "Or a bird could come in with the disease, not showing it, and spread it to other birds -- this is very important."

Exotic Newcastle disease is spread through the mucus or feces of infected birds, and can be even spread short distances in the air, according to Woodfork. The disease can affect all species of birds but is nearly 100 percent fatal to poultry. When a bird tests positive for Exotic Newcastle, the task force kills it and all the birds in that flock.

Toll is very high

Nearly 3.5 million birds in California have been killed since the disease was found in flock of backyard chickens in October. In San Diego County, nearly 500,000 have been killed.

Most of the birds that have been killed because of the disease are commercial laying hens. The task force said that 22 ranches tested positive ----- seven of them in San Diego County.

Those ranches are Ramona Egg Enterprises; the Armstrong Egg Ranches on Mac Tan, Lilac and Cole Grade roads in Valley Center; Foster Enterprises on Cole Grade Road in Valley Center; the Fluegge Egg Ranch in Valley Center; and the Ward Egg Ranch on Fruitvale Road in Valley Center.

The Fluegge Egg Ranch and Ramona Egg Enterprises are said by the task force to no longer be infected.

The outbreak has been a lesson in animal health safety for some young poultry breeders, said Kristina Byrne, small animal advisory committee chairperson for 4-H. Her daughters, ages 12 and 14, raise chickens at their Poway home.

"The kids have really learned a lot," she said. She said that years ago the family used to quarantine their birds for two weeks after returning from an exhibition, but that they had stopped doing that.

"It's a big reminder that we need to be following the common-sense health rules that we all know," she said. "It was a big wake-up call."

She said that her daughters are disappointed they can't show their birds this year, but that there will be other ways that they and the other nearly 200 kids in the county who raise poultry can show off their knowledge of the birds at the fair.

The kids will be using lifelike puppets to display their skill at handling the birds, and some will be making speeches on poultry-related issues, Byrne said. There will be group skits, poster contests and "Avian Bowl" also. "Avian Bowl," an event that happens every year, is a game-show style competition where kids answer questions about poultry.

"The kids seem to be OK with it," she said.

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760)740-5412 or


05/27/03 - East Texas
USDA Fighting Newcastle Disease Concerns
by Alex Carias

Commercial chicken farming is big business here in East Texas. That's why many people are worried about the rapid spread of the "Exotic Newcastle Disease." However, there is some good news for East Texas.

For the past several months, poultry farmers have been keeping a close eye on the Exotic Newcastle Disease, a disease that has moved within the Texas borders and has the United States Department of Agriculture concerned.

"It's something that can be so devastating. Not just to the poultry producers, but to the community. So many jobs in East Texas Center around the poultry industry," explained USDA State Director, Bryan Daniel.

Since the introduction of the disease into the state, the USDA and poultry producers have been researching immunization programs and trying to find the source of the disease.

"The Department of Agriculture takes very seriously any opportunity that we can have to stop the spread of the disease, to contain it and hopefully at some point to eradicate it," added Daniel.

The forecast for the industry is not as bleak as some may predict.

"I don't think that there's just a looming threat right outside the gates. I think if we're smart and we take proper precautions, I think that we can mitigate any type of impact that it may have," said Daniel.

The disease has not been found close to commercial chicken houses; however, the USDA is continuing to monitor the spread of the disease.

Ames Tribune, IA

New poultry rules introduced
By Matt Neznanski

Rules announced to protect Iowa's egg industry

Last week Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge announced new rules for summer poultry shows designed to protect egg farmers.

Iowa's egg farmers are the top producers in the country and have an industry valued at $185 million per year.

The rules are designed to limit the introduction of exotic Newcastle disease and avian influenza into Iowa flocks by requiring mandatory veterinary inspections and restricting sales during events that are not approved a month in advance.

According to John Schiltz, the state's veterinarian, the new rules should have a minimal impact on state and county fairs and 4-H poultry shows, since veterinarians already visually inspect each bird upon arrival.

"They already are meeting standards," Schiltz said. "All they have to do is get registered."

Currently, no registration or inspection is required at poultry and domestic fowl exhibitions.

The rules also limit sales at such events, requiring a licensed veterinarian to be on the premises to inspect every bird. At unregulated events such as flea markets and swap meets, no sales are permitted unless registration has been approved at least 30 days before the event.

Exotic Newcastle disease and avian influenza are highly contagious viral diseases that affect the respiratory, digestive and nervous systems of birds.

An outbreak of Newcastle disease is being contained in the western U.S., and parts of Connecticut and West Virginia have confirmed avian influenza.

While avian influenza is not considered an exotic disease, countries still impose trade restrictions on infected flocks.

Schiltz said the new rules should standardize poultry shows statewide.

"What happened was, we became aware that there are a whole lot more poultry shows than just fairs," he said. "I'm getting an education quickly here. Fancy chicken people, the pure-bred breeders, have shows all over. They do a good job, but they're not necessarily on our radar screen."

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Newcastle disease is introduced into the U.S. through smuggled birds and spreads quickly through backyard flocks whose owners are often unable to perform strict biological control measures.

Now, all Iowa shows will have to comply with the same standard, Schiltz said.

"This is a try to eliminate that source of introduction of the diseases and to make sure that we're being consistent and treating all shows the same," he said.

When current disease outbreaks come under control, Schiltz said he hopes the department can re-examine the regulations. Even then, the registration process has opened lines of communication between state agencies and poultry hobbyists.

"The new regs will also will allow us to react better so we can know who to contact in the future," he said.

Ames Tribune, IA

Newcastle disease can be fatal for fowl
By Matt Neznanski May 27, 2003

Exotic Newcastle disease affects most birds. Some, like ducks and geese, can be carriers for the virus but show no clinical signs, while the disease can be highly fatal to turkeys and chickens.

San Diego County in California, bordering Mexico, reports one case of exotic Newcastle disease every year, normally from pet birds smuggled into the country.

Darrell Trampel, an Iowa State University extension veterinarian, has produced a videotaped discussion of the disease and its spread titled, "Exotic Newcastle Disease and the California Outbreak."

The presentation is available on DVD and video from ISU's College of Veterinary Medicine.

In it, Trampel said the virus was discovered and named in 1926 when it was transferred through contaminated feed to Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the eastern coast of England.

The disease flared worldwide in the 1970s, when the outbreak originated in the Middle East and was transferred by psittacine birds (parrots and related birds) and in the 1980s when it swept around the globe through infected pigeons.

"It's not strange to have it in the U.S., but it is strange to have it in commercial flocks," Trampel said.

The current outbreak impacted international trade when 22 countries and the European Union banned U.S. poultry imports.

The disease is viable indefinitely in frozen material, and can be transmitted in frozen meat for up to 250 days and in bone marrow for 300 days.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, exotic Newcastle disease does not pose a public health threat and does not make poultry or eggs unsafe to eat.

All U.S. egg-laying chickens have been vaccinated three times against the disease, but that isn't enough to stop its spread.

Trampel said inoculated birds can still pass the virus, replicating it in their bodies and spreading it through feces, coughing and sneezing, and can pass it on to their chicks.

The disease's incubation period can vary from two to 15 days and its onset can be so sudden that birds are often found with no sign of sickness. Growers should watch for a morbidity rate near 100 percent without clinical signs, usually signaling an onset of exotic Newcastle disease.

Still, symptoms can be present, including twisting of the head, difficulty walking, diarrhea, strained breathing and lack of appetite.

Once the virus infects a commercial operation, Trampel said it must be eradicated. This requires that all exposed birds be killed and the farm cleaned, disinfected and left empty for two incubation periods - 30 days.

He said biosecurity is essential to keep the disease from affecting nationwide flocks. A standard procedure among producers is to ban contact by all employees with hobby or pet birds.

Further, he said people working with the birds should wear clean clothes and disinfect their boots and shoes. Movement on and off farms should be minimal and equipment and vehicles leaving the area should be cleaned and disinfected.

Bird houses, food stores and water supplies must also be closed to access by any other birds.

The current outbreak was first diagnosed in fighting game birds in Compton, a Los Angeles area city, on Oct. 1, 2002. It spread to Las Vegas by Jan. 16, and Arizona on Feb.4. On April 9, the disease was found in a backyard flock in Texas. Nearly 3.5 million chickens have been destroyed since October.

Nevada and Arizona locations have since been released from quarantine.

Fighting birds are bred and trained to fight in organized events called derbies. Trampel estimates 3 million game birds are living in California, owned by up to 60,000 people.

The birds are traded throughout the southwest, and are often hidden and smuggled out of the region to avoid regulators who confiscate and destroy the birds.

Loose game birds travel freely throughout the quarantined area making it difficult for officials to stop the virus from reappearing.

"Friends and colleagues in L.A. say about the time they get one area of town cleaned up they're having more chicken fights there in that area." Trampel said.

The danger of spreading to Iowa comes from the possibility of smuggled California game birds and trucks returning to Iowa after making California deliveries where rigorous cleaning and disinfecting isn't always carried out, said Trampel.

"The Newcastle outbreak in California might very well come to this state," he said. "We certainly hope it doesn't, but it could happen very easily."

Modesto Bee, CA

No cluckers at fair; Newcastle to blame
Published: May 27, 2003, 06:51:24 AM PDT

Cardboard chickens don't get sick, the thinking goes among young people preparing for county fairs.

Fear of a bird ailment called exotic Newcastle disease has prompted fairs around the state to cancel this year's live poultry shows. Instead, youngsters will create crafts and educational posters with poultry themes.

Among them are Amanda Garcia, 11, and her brother, Lorenzo, 8, who had planned on entering the Stanislaus County Fair's show until the cancellation was announced in January.

"I've done a lot of research on Newcastle disease and I understand why they're not doing it," said Amanda, who still raises chickens but will have to leave them at home during the fair, July 25 to Aug. 3.

Amanda and Lorenzo, members of Discovery Ranch 4-H in Turlock, plan to create posters about poultry, featuring animated characters such as Donald Duck and the cast of "Chicken Run."

Exotic Newcastle disease is harmless to people, but could devastate the San Joaquin Valley's poultry industry if it reaches here. Eight counties in Southern California were quarantined following the discovery of stricken chickens in backyard flocks last fall.

State agricultural officials urged fair boards to cancel shows out of concern that the gathered birds could spread the virus via the air or contact with manure, cages, handlers' clothing or other means.

The San Joaquin Fair has invited 4-H members to make life- sized chickens out of wood, cloth, papier-mâché or other materials. The faux chickens will be judged and displayed in poultry cages at the June 11-22 fair.

"We have kids who are working all year long on the projects in poultry, and they still needed to have a way to earn those pins and ribbons at the fair," said Cherie Sintes, poultry barn chairwoman at the Stockton fairground.

The Mother Lode Fair, set for July 10-13 in Sonora, will feature kids' posters on poultry topics such as nutrition, diseases, breeds and housing, Manager Jan Haydn-Myer said. They also can enter handcrafted turkeys or models of bird habitat.

Many 4-H and FFA members will make posters about the very disease that is keeping the live birds out.

"The kids will learn more about Newcastle disease if they are doing the poster boards, but it will educate the public, also," said Cheryl Davidson, manager of the Merced County Fair, set for July 15-20. This fair also will have a poster contest about poultry breeds.

Poultry raisers are few compared with the number of young people who enter cattle, sheep and other animals in the fairs.

Still, poultry shows are a treat for a certain breed, so to speak, of fairgoer. Birds of various sizes, some with richly colored plumage, preen in row after row of cages. The owners strive to feed and groom them to the exacting standards of the judges.

Amanda, the Turlock 4-H'er, said she hopes the disease scare passes and live shows return next year. "I have fancy birds that are great for showing," she said, "so I'm excited to go back."

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at 667-1227 or

San Diego Union Tribune, CA

May 25, 2003
Staff Writer

Tom Blood calls his beloved racing pigeons "the thoroughbreds of the sky."

For anyone who has spent time in a city, where people are more likely to call pigeons flying rats, the description may seem unlikely.

But after seeing Blood's pigeons in flight, any thoughts of rats are quickly erased.

On a recent morning, he opened the trap doors to his pigeon loft in Blossom Valley, outside of Alpine. One by one pigeons sprang up, until about 80 birds were flying together in wide circles, sweeping low over the brush, then rocketing to the treetops. They made a soft, rustling sound, like wind rushing through leaves.

These days, Blood's pigeons don't fly far. An outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease, a deadly and highly contagious avian virus, keeps them close to home. Races in Southern California have been canceled, and pigeon fliers are not allowed to take birds from quarantined counties to compete elsewhere.

"They feel very strongly for the folks in the poultry industry who are suffering," said Karen Clifton, president of the American Racing Pigeon Union in Oklahoma City. "But on the flip side, they are very passionate about their hobby, and they're very frustrated - not being able to move their birds, train their birds and participate in races."

There are about 1,400 pigeon fliers in California, and 80 belong to four San Diego County clubs. Some of them contend that racing pigeons do not pose a threat of spreading exotic Newcastle disease and that quarantine regulations unfairly include homing pigeons.

"What proof is there that they're a problem?" Clifton asked.

Warren Shetrone of Valley Center, a pigeon flier and representative for the Pigeon Union's scientific community, said he was trying to persuade state and federal officials to modify the regulations and allow pigeon fliers to move their birds certain distances under certain conditions.

"I'm working to get pigeons scientifically exonerated from being epidemiologically linked to the disease," said Shetrone, who works as a veterinarian in Temecula. "We believe racing pigeons are pretty resistant to it. They were resistant to West Nile virus on the East Coast, and we think racing pigeons are resistant to exotic Newcastle."

Since exotic Newcastle disease was first detected in chickens in Los Angeles County in October, a state and federal task force charged with eradicating the disease has ordered 3.5 million birds - most of them chickens in commercial flocks - destroyed in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. Many birds were killed as a precaution to prevent the virus from spreading, not because they were known to have contracted it.

Of the birds that tested positive for the virus, eight were pigeons, said Leticia Rico, spokeswoman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Whether they were racing pigeons isn't clear. Some pigeon fliers say they were not racing pigeons because no identification numbers for the birds were made available.

Rico said the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force asked pigeon fliers not to compete in races until the outbreak is stamped out.

"The process of getting rid of this disease has its consequences and unfortunately that relates to some sacrifice," she said.

For Blood, sacrifice means not traveling with his birds to faraway spots to train them to fly home. "A lot of guys are taking them out and training them, but I'm not doing that because the racing people asked me not to," he said. The threat of the disease doesn't worry Blood. "I'm just upset we're being interrupted."

It also means his birds that are less than a year old and have their own racing category will not be able to race as youngsters. "Every year you race a young bird team, so now I have more old birds than young ones," he said.

Thousands of years

Blood, 68, has been keeping homing pigeons since he was a boy during World War II. The sport was very popular then, and pigeons were used by the military to send messages.

"Pigeons are bonded to man," Blood said as he watched his flock overhead. "They are so loyal. I've had them come in with broken legs. They're able to see 80 miles, and they're able to hear things we can't hear."

People have used homing pigeons to carry messages for thousands of years. Genghis Khan used them to communicate over long distances. So did Julius Caesar. During World War II, homing pigeons saved many lives. A pigeon named G.I. Joe delivered a message to Allied troops minutes before they would have been bombed by Allied planes.

Like thoroughbred horses, the pigeons are bred for speed and endurance. Prize-winning pigeons have been known to fetch as much as $3,000.

As Blood prepared buckets of food, the birds' laps around his back yard became tighter and lower, like water circling around a drain. The birds dropped down one and two at a time, each entering the loft through a small trap door, just as Blood trained them to do.

>From the time the birds are born, Blood handles them, talks to them. When they are able to fly, he holds them just a foot away from the narrow platform on the loft and nudges them out of his hands.

They flap awkwardly, but land on the platform and find that the only way back to the comfort of their loft is through a trap door. During a race, the clock at the trap door will register their arrival time. The distance the young birds fly increases with time. Blood will take them to points farther and farther away, release them and then drive home.

It's not unusual for the birds to beat him home, he said. Normally at this time of year, pigeons are racing in 500-and 600-mile competitions.

But for now, the birds' outings will be restricted to the daily exercise over his home.

'Pigeon nut'

The racing pigeons that belong to San Marcos Mayor Corky Smith have a similar routine.

In the mornings, Smith, who has been racing pigeons for more than 50 years, turns them out and lets them fly for 45 to 90 minutes. Because of the exotic Newcastle outbreak, Smith has kept his breeding to a minimum.

"I'm not breeding a race team. I'm breeding to improve the families of birds, to improve the blood lines of the birds I've kept for years," he said. Smith, who owns about 100 birds, said the break from racing won't harm his team, which he has lovingly cultivated. A self-described "pigeon nut," the hiatus will allow him more time with his family, he said.

"My family thinks I'm crazy," Smith said, but then added this about his pigeons: "I've had them longer than most of my family."

Valley Roadrunner, Valley Center, CA

Exotic Newcastle Disease may be on the wane, says task force

Exotic Newcastle Disease may be on the wane, according to officials with the state and federal task force that is working to eradicate the deadly poultry plague.

The first of several infected VC chicken ranches to do so, the Fluegge Egg Ranch, received a clean bill of health last week.

According to Adrian Woodfork, spokesman for the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force based in Garden Grove, August Fluegge, owner of the ranch, must sign a compliance agreement in which he agrees to have his birds tested ever week once he restocks his ranch in September.

When a chicken ranch is discovered to have infected birds, the birds must first be killed and disposed of. Next the operation is cleaned and disinfected by members of the task force, which is composed of many different state and federal agencies, including the California Dept. of Food & Agriculture, the California Highway Patrol, U.S. Dept. of Forestry and others.

Once an egg ranch is free and clear of the disease for 30 days, the owner is asked to sign a compliance agreement if he wants to restock.

Other VC egg ranches that have been infected in recent months are the Foster Ranch on Cole Road, Armstrong Egg Ranch No. 5 on Cole Grade Road and Armstrong Egg Ranch No. 8 on Lilac Road.

The task force’s work appears to be slowly taking the upper hand, Woodfork told The Roadrunner this week.

“We feel that the eradication of Newcastle disease is definitely succeeding based on the fact that there are fewer and fewer cases week by week showing up,” he said. “We’re hoping that by the end of the year our goal will be completed.”

The disease so far has been confined to chickens and other assorted poultry and a few pet birds, ducks and pigeons.

Rattites, such as emus and ostriches, appear not to have been affected, although technically all birds can catch the disease.

The effects of the disease have also been felt on 13 backyard chicken operations in Valley Center, where owners had to euthanize the birds and conduct the same sort of clean up as larger, commercial operations.

Everyone within a one kilometer (about .621 mile) radius of any infected chicken ranch has been checked by the inspectors. If they have chickens or poultry they are contacted by a diagnostic team.

So far the monetary damages to Southern California from the disease is $97.2 million and $105.2 million in the United States.

That includes the cost of paying 1027 members

of the task force and compensating poultry owners for their birds. Owners are paid between $5 for chickens up to $18.50 for birds such as a double yellow headed parrot.

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, CA,1413,203~21481~1412030,00.html

Festivals, fairs more than just fun and games
Report finds significant economic benefits flow into communities

SAN BERNARDINO -- County fairs and agricultural expositions, like the National Orange Show Festival, generate roughly $2.55 billion in economic activity each year in California, officials said.

The state Department of Food and Agriculture released a report Friday at the festival touting the effect fairs have on local economies and the state overall.

The department's study estimated that the Orange Show alone generates roughly $22.4 million in economic activity and the equivalent of 297 full-time jobs, along with $162,000 for nonprofit groups and $335,000 in local tax revenue.

"It lends credence that what we do has a community benefit," said festival spokeswoman Laurel Ericksen. "It's very exciting for a report to come out that shows the value of what we do as an industry."

At a press conference at the Orange Show, which runs through Monday, state agriculture officials extolled the virtues of county fairs and other local expositions. Besides drawing visitors into town, they often bring lots of traveling vendors and carnival workers, the officials said.

"When they go into a community, they stay at the hotels, they eat at the restaurants," said William J. "Bill" Lyons, secretary of the department.

Most of the vendors buy materials for their products locally in order to travel light, said Liz Houser, director of the department's Division for Fairs and Expositions.

"They use services from basically everyone in town," she said.

The report also discusses the social and educational benefits of such fairs, including educating citizens about California's diverse agricultural sector.

The outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease, a deadly disease that has ravaged commercial poultry flocks throughout Southern California, has prevented the fair from exhibiting birds.

Lyons said he thinks government agencies are turning the tide against the disease, and he credited strong cooperation from the U.S. Agriculture Department and local governments.

"We believe we're winning that fight," he said.

Las Vegas Review-Journal, NV

End nearing for four-month poultry quarantine
3,000 birds destroyed to halt avian flu

WASHINGTON -- State and federal officials are nearing the end of a four-month poultry quarantine in Southern Nevada that resulted in the destruction of more than 3,000 birds suspected of carrying a lethal avian disease.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture implemented the quarantine in southern Nye County and all of Clark County in January following the discovery of Exotic Newcastle Disease, a highly contagious avian flu, in a Las Vegas pet chicken.

Last week, the USDA lifted the Nye County quarantine and reduced the Clark County ban to a 24-square-mile area of northeast Las Vegas where inspectors had found 10 infected sites.

"We just shrunk it down to be immediately around the infected premises," Nevada State Veterinarian David Thain said.

Thain said the quarantine will remain in place in the affected area through mid-August so officials can continue to monitor the disease without affecting poultry transportation. Birds that enter the quarantine area cannot be removed until after the ban is repealed.

Thain speculated the avian disease entered Nevada through an illegal game bird from California.

Exotic Newcastle Disease kills nearly 100 percent of infected birds but it is not a threat to human health, according to the state agriculture department.

The USDA reduced a similar quarantine area in Northern Arizona last week. At the same time, it expanded a quarantine zone in California to include the Central Valley.

The USDA has killed 3.5 million birds in California, said Leticia Rico, an Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force spokeswoman. Overall, the task force has spent $102 million on eradication efforts in Arizona, California, Nevada and Texas.

Nearly all of the California birds were located on large farms while most of the Nevada animals were backyard pets, Thain said.

Thain said the task force spent roughly $5 million fighting the disease in Nevada. The funds covered investigations, personnel and compensation for bird owners.

He said the task force put down all birds found within a half-mile of a diseased animal.

"We took the `we're going to stamp it out approach,' and it worked pretty well for us," Thain said.

The USDA said officials inspected 2,007 Nevada homes and farms, 1,998 of which were in Clark County.

Salisbury Daily Times, MD

Thursday, May 22, 2003
Perdue seeks to incinerate dead birds
Company proposes burning poultry at Shore facilities to cut disease risk
By John Vandiver
Daily Times Staff Writer

SALISBURY -- Perdue Farms Inc. is planning to construct five chicken incinerators at separate Lower Shore breeding facilities to more efficiently dispose of dead birds and reduce the risk of poultry-borne virus outbreaks.

Perdue executives have applied to the Maryland Department of the Environment for permits that will allow them to discard up to 500 pounds of chicken daily at each of the facilities.

"They are a cleaner and quicker method of disposing of dead chickens. And with recent outbreaks of avian flu and Newcastle Disease, we need an additional layer of biosecurity," said Tita Cherrier, spokeswoman for Perdue.

Last spring, avian flu spread throughout large portions of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, leading to the slaughter of roughly 4.7 million birds. Poultry officials said the virus cost the industry about $150 million. Earlier this year, Exotic Newcastle Disease resulted in the slaughter of poultry flocks in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona.

As part of the permitting process, Perdue and MDE officials will hold public hearings on the proposal. The first of three hearings will be held June 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Greenwood Middle School in Princess Anne. Additional hearings will be scheduled in both Worcester and Wicomico counties.

If the application is approved, Perdue will build the incinerators at Lower Shore breeding farms -- one in Mardela Springs, two in Princess Anne and two in Pocomoke City, Cherrier said.

Richard McIntire, spokesman for the Department of the Environment, said Perdue's application would enable it to burn chickens five to seven hours daily at each facility. The incinerators, which are the size of a "household wood burning stove," are enclosed and do not emit smoke or odor, he said.

"I would compare it to a cremation facility," McIntire said.

Cherrier said Perdue intends to burn about 100 pounds of chicken daily in each incinerator.

Some residents who live near the proposed sites, however, say they have reservations about the plans.

"We know that they say there is no smell or smoke, but we're concerned about the health and environmental hazards. Some things become more dangerous after they are burned," said Carole Schoenborn, whose home on Wildwood Trail is less than one mile from Perdue's facility in Pocomoke.

Traditionally, dead birds have been disposed of in landfills or through composting.

According to McIntire, concerns about the polluting effects of wastewater runoff -- associated with traditional ways of discarding dead birds -- are minimized during the incineration process.

"The ash would be landfilled or done through solid waste disposal," he said.

Perdue already has incinerators at breeding facilities in Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina.

"We have identical systems in other states and there have been no issues," Cherrier said.

In an effort to reassure residents, she said the company is offering tours of existing facilities to people living within 1,000 feet of the proposed locations.

United Press International

Feds support Newcastle vaccine

Agriculture Department officials have given approval to a new vaccine for the exotic Newcastle disease, which is a threat to poultry products in the United States.

The Newplex vaccine can be delivered in ovo via the Embrex Inovoject system to prevent the respiratory disease. North Carolina-based Embrex Inc. makes the vaccine and hopes eventually to get approval to sell it around the world.

The vaccine is an antibody complex made by selecting a suitable vaccine virus and combining it in an appropriate ratio with its specific antibody.

The antibody presence tempers the onset of viral replication, which will allow the safe in ovo administration of moderately attenuated vaccine viruses.

Lompoc Record, CA

Voluntary testing for Newcastle disease planned
By The Record Staff

5/20/03 U.S. Department of Agriculture survey teams will be going door-to-door in areas of north Santa Barbara County starting today, conducting a voluntary test to determine if the quarantine for exotic Newcastle disease can be lifted.

Those taking the survey will be wearing photo identification badges, said Larry Hawkins of the USDA.

Newcastle disease, which strikes birds, has been detected in Ventura County and Santa Barbara was quarantined to establish a buffer zone, Hawkins said.

"There are no known active cases (of Newcastle) in the county," he said.

If during the survey, which will last two or three weeks, the Exotic Newcastle Disease Taskforce doesn't find any sign of the disease in the area, the quarantine will be lifted, Hawkins said.

If any infected birds are found, they will be euthanized and the owner paid a fair-market price, he said. The survey will focus on poultry, such as chickens, but will also include indoor pet birds if there is poultry at the house, Hawkins said.

Indoor pet birds at homes without chickens will not be checked, he said.

"We will take a sample (from the birds) with a swab. That is all we have to do," said Vicki Bridges, a veterinarian with the taskforce. The swab will be sent to a lab and the results will be available within seven days.

"The poultry owner will be notified if the results are positive, but we won't contact them if they are negative," Bridges said.

"We need to test 300 homes with poultry for the survey to be valid."

In addition to testing poultry, the two-member survey crews will offer residents information on the disease. At least one member of the crew will be bilingual, Hawkins said.

To verify that those going door-to-door are with the USDA, residents can call 800-491-1899, he said.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune, FL

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) - Teams fan out across the county this week in a door-to-door inspection of areas where backyard birds are kept to make sure there's no signs of the highly contagious Exotic Newcastle Disease.

The three-week survey is seen as the first step in possibly lifting quarantine restrictions imposed in Santa Barbara County after the Southern California outbreak of the fatal avian disease. More than 3.4 million chickens have been destroyed.

There have been no local cases of Exotic Newcastle Disease.

Even though pet birds can contract and spread the disease, the focus of inspections in Santa Barbara County will be on poultry unless pet birds are on the same property, said Larry Hawkins, a spokesman for the state's Exotic Newcastle Disease task force.

The group was organized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Hawkins said the survey is entirely voluntary but he is confident of good public cooperation, especially since the testing procedure, a cotton swab to the bird's rear end, is simple and safe.

If the region continues to show it is disease-free, work will begin to lift the quarantine, a process Hawkins said could take another 60 days.

The disease has generated very stringent quarantine restrictions in San Diego, Imperial, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Most of the infected birds have been found in Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles.

The disease struck 22 commercial farms, accounting for about 3 million birds and 15 percent of the egg production in Southern California. There has not been a commercial case in more than a month.

Once a case is identified, all the birds are destroyed and the premises are cleaned, disinfected and left vacant for a period. After that, a few fresh birds are brought back and monitored for at least three weeks to make sure they remain healthy.

Raleigh News, NC

Tuesday, May 20, 2003 12:00AM EDT
Poultry drug gets approval
Newcastle disease can be fatal
By DAVID RANII, Staff Writer

DURHAM -- Embrex received U.S. regulatory approval for its vaccine for the poultry virus Newcastle disease, making it the third vaccine that can be administered automatically by the company's machines. The Durham-based company announced Monday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved its Newplex vaccine for poultry. USDA approval enables the vaccine to be administered to baby chicks through the eggshell before they hatch with the company's patented Inovoject machines.

Newplex will compete with existing vaccines that are sprayed or are administered along with drinking water or via eye drops. Embrex estimates those vaccines account for $30 million to $40 million in worldwide sales.

Those sales occur mostly in overseas markets because Newcastle disease isn't a major problem for the U.S. poultry industry. But CEO Randall Marcuson said USDA approval is important because it "gives you the stamp of credibility" and can speed up approvals elsewhere.

Newcastle disease is most prevalent in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. According to the USDA, Newcastle disease kills nearly all unvaccinated poultry that get infected.

Embrex isn't making a sales forecast for Newplex. Analyst John L. Sullivan of Stephens Inc. expects the sales effort will be deliberate because of the need to educate potential customers about a new product. He projects Newplex will generate sales of $500,000 this year and $1.5 million next year, compared to about $3 million in sales of Embrex's Bursaplex vaccine in 2002. A third vaccine administered with the Inovoject system isn't produced by Embrex.

In addition to sales from Newplex itself, having a new vaccine "is another reason for a customer to consider an Inovoject machine," Sullivan said. "It is unmitigated good news for Embrex to get approval of this product."

More than 80 percent of the broiler chickens raised in the United States and at least 30 percent worldwide receive vaccinations from Inovoject machines.

Embrex shares closed at $9.30 on Monday, up 10 cents. The stock is down 16 percent this year, mostly because in February the company issued new earnings and revenue projections that undercut what analysts were expecting. The company expects revenue for 2003 to be $47 million to $49 million, vs. $45.3 million last year.

An outbreak of an exotic strain of Newcastle disease recently occurred in the western part of the United States, but it has been limited in scale and the USDA is working aggressively to contain it, Marcuson said.

"If it spreads, it could be a real issue for the poultry industry," he said. However, Newplex hasn't been tested on the exotic strain and so there is no way of knowing whether it would be effective.

Staff writer David Ranii can be reached at 829-4877 or

The Bakersfield Californian, CA

Bird disease puts part of Kern under quarantine
By MARYLEE SHRIDER , Californian staff writer
Monday May 19, 2003, 11:33:00 PM

State and federal officials have quarantined Kern County's southeastern corner and destroyed nearly 300 birds, attempting to halt the spread of a deadly avian virus.

The presence of exotic Newcastle disease in a rural area near Mojave was confirmed May 5 on four farms. Despite assertions by agricultural officials that discovery of the virus was a minor find, the quarantine was set May 13. Since the find, state and federal officials of the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force destroyed 298 backyard chickens and birds.

There are no commercial poultry producers in the quarantined area.

"All infections are significant due to the highly contagious nature of this disease," said Leticia Rico, spokeswoman for the task force. "It's certainly our hope that everything we're doing will keep it this side of the Tehachapis."

Rico said the quarantine is indefinite.

Though the disease has gained a foothold in Kern County and an area of about 1,387 square miles has been quarantined, Rico and other ag officials said they are not overly concerned, citing the field's remote location.

Officials on Monday also said that birds in Lancaster and Palmdale, just south of Kern County, were found with the disease in March and early April.

The Mojave find is the first discovery of the virus outside of a large quarantined zone in Southern California, including Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Riverside, Orange, San Diego and Imperial counties. Those counties were placed under quarantine after the disease, which is harmless to humans but fatal in birds, was discovered in a backyard flock in October. More than 3 million birds have been slaughtered since.

No more birds are scheduled for slaughter at this time, but bird owners in the designated area are prohibited from moving their birds, poultry, products and materials from the area. Basically, any feathered animal must stay put in the quarantine area.

Louie Cervantes, Kern County assistant agricultural commissioner, said officials are not overly concerned.

"No, we're not really worried," Cervantes said. "These (finds) are small handlers, not commercial farms, so unless someone was moving their birds to Bakersfield, (the virus) would probably be difficult to get out."

The Bakersfield Californian, CA

Monday May 19, 2003, 12:05:51 PM

A desert corner of Kern County is under quarantine for exotic Newcastle disease despite the assertion by federal agriculture officials that the discovery of the virus there was a "pretty minor deal."

The poultry virus was confirmed in backyard poultry on four farms in a remote, rural area near Mojave on May 5. Officials with the Exotic Newcastle Disease Task Force initially said the quarantine would be limited to the farms on which the birds were found and destroyed. But on May 13, federal officials imposed a quarantine on the south east corner of the county south of the Tehachapi and El Paso mountain ranges.

Bird owners in the designated quarantine area are prohibited from moving their birds, poultry, products and materials from the area. The quarantine is indefinite and becomes part of the larger Southern California quarantine, said Leticia Rico, task force spokeswoman.

The Tribune, San Luis Obispo County, CA

POULTRY DISEASE NOT YET SEEN IN COUNTY: A countywide search for birds infected with the deadly exotic Newcastle disease has yet to turn up a case as of Thursday.

That's the finding so far from a San Luis Obispo County survey launched in late February by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the county's agricultural department.

"We have found some sick birds, but no cases of exotic Newcastle have been found in the county to date," said Robert Lilley, San Luis Obispo County's agricultural commissioner.

The disease, which is not harmful to humans, is easily transmitted among birds and poultry, resulting in severe respiratory illness and often death. So far, almost 3.5 million birds -- mostly chickens -- have been put to death in California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas to help contain the disease's spread.

The county's ag department does not know how many birds could be at risk in the county, since most birds and chickens are raised as pets. The survey, which is ongoing, includes backyard inspections.

For additional information or to report a sick bird, contact the San Luis Obispo Department of Agriculture at 781-5910, or the USDA at (800) 491-1899 or visit

-- Leslie E. Stevens


USDA eases poultry restrictions in Arizona, Nevada
Reuters, 05.19.03, 12:22 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Agriculture Department Monday eased its quarantine on poultry shipments out of Arizona and Nevada after officials concluded that a highly contagious avian virus was successfully contained.

The two states have not reported any new cases of Exotic Newcastle Disease since the first initial findings earlier this year.

The poultry virus, which is harmless to humans and does not affect the safety of poultry meat or eggs, has also infected flocks in California and Texas.

"In this interim rule, we are reducing the size of the quarantined areas in Nevada and Arizona based on the results of extensive surveillance and investigations conducted in those states," the USDA said in a Federal Register notice.

The USDA said it lifted the federal quarantine on Mohave and Yuma counties in Arizona and Nye County in Nevada.

It also removed restrictions on the transport of birds in portions of La Paz County, Arizona, and Clark County, Nevada.

Exotic Newcastle Disease was first discovered in October in Southern California.

With sales of $3 billion annually, California's poultry industry has been hit the hardest by the outbreak. The virus has infected 21 commercial poultry farms in the state and caused the killing of 3.5 million birds.

Last week, USDA expanded its quarantine in California to include Kern County after two new cases were found in the region.

Some experts believe the current outbreak began with the importation of illegal fighting cocks from Mexico, used for gambling or as pets.

The disease is easily spread by vehicles and wild birds and is tough to eradicate because many birds die without showing signs of infection. Symptoms include respiratory problems, diarrhea and a decline in egg production.

Copyright 2003, Reuters News Service

Bettendorf News, IA,1012462

Last Updated: 9:39 am, Monday, May 19th, 2003

Iowa sets more rules to protect poultry
By Associated Press

Effort is to stop spread of Exotic Newcastle Disease

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge has announced new measures to prevent the spread of two fatal poultry diseases.

The revised rules, announced Friday, include registration of all poultry and domestic fowl at exhibitions, including county fairs and 4-H fairs. Previously, no registration was required at such functions, Judge said in a press release.

The effort is meant to stop the spread of Exotic Newcastle Disease and avian influenza, or bird flu.

The new rules also will require a licensed veterinarian to inspect the poultry that is being sold or shown at fairs and similar events. Any animals that appear to have symptoms of the disease would be removed immediately.

“Iowa’s poultry and domestic fowl are at risk for Exotic Newcastle and avian influenza disease and we want to make every effort to safeguard them,” Judge said. “Putting these emergency rules in place will add even greater protection for all of our avian species.”

Symptoms of the Exotic Newcastle Disease include sudden death, a drop in egg production, paralysis and swelling in the eye area, officials said.

The bird virus was first found in California in October, then spread to Nevada, Arizona and Texas. The disease poses no threat to humans, but it is highly contagious among chickens, usually paralyzing and killing them.

Avian influenza has been confirmed in West Virginia and Connecticut.

The illness is often fatal for domesticated and wild birds, but is rarely dangerous for humans.

North County Times, CA

Task force optimistic that Newcastle is under control
Staff Writer

It has been eight months, and where does the state stand in its fight against Exotic Newcastle disease?

According to the state-federal task force in charge of stamping out the deadly avian virus, things are looking up, but it is still unclear when it will be completely gone.

"At the present time, we're very optimistic that we have the disease under control in that there are fewer cases being reported on a week-to-week, month-to-month basis," said Adrian Woodfork, a spokesman for the task force. "By the end of the year, we hope to be able to lift most of the quarantines, if not all."

The task force has "closed" three commercial ranches -- two in San Diego County -- that had previously tested positive for the disease. When a ranch is "closed," it is said to be free of the disease, according to Woodfork.

"I would have to say it's a positive sign," he said. "It means the eradication process is working."

Those that were hit

The Fluegge Egg Ranch on Twain Way in Valley Center and Ramona Egg Enterprises in Ramona were said to no longer be infected last week. The remaining ranches in San Diego County that tested positive have yet to be released. They are the Armstrong Egg ranches on Cole Grade, Lilac and Mac Tan roads in Valley Center; Foster Egg Ranch of Cole Grade Road; and the Ward Egg Ranch on Fruitvale Road in Valley Center.

In all, 22 commercial ranches in Southern California have been hit with the disease. No additional commercial ranches have tested positive for the disease since late March, when the Armstrong Egg Ranch on Mac Tan Road was confirmed to have it.

The birds at that ranch, and every other property where birds tested positive for the disease, were killed by the task force.

In all, the task force has killed more than 3.4 million birds, although officials there have repeatedly said that it will not release a breakdown of how many birds have been killed by species.

The backyard flocks

In San Diego County, 21 backyard flocks -- 17 in Valley Center, two in Escondido, two in Ramona -- have tested positive.

All of the birds there have been killed, according to task force spokesman Larry Cooper.

No new backyard flocks have tested positive for almost two weeks, according to the task force.

To help curb the spread of Exotic Newcastle, the task force also places a strict quarantine on the property and all properties with birds within one kilometer of an infected site.

Under a strict quarantine, bird owners cannot move birds on or off their property. The strict quarantine has been lifted from the two commercial ranches in San Diego County where the task force says the disease has been eliminated. The task force has also released 54 homes from quarantine, although 304 remain quarantined.

When asked when those properties will be released, Woodfork said: "That is something I cannot say at this time. All I can say is, we're working as fast as we can."

Within the eight

Even if a property is not under strict quarantine, bird owners are still not allowed to move their birds out of the eight Southern California counties that are under a federal quarantine without a permit from the task force. Those counties are San Diego, Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura, Imperial and Santa Barbara.

The disease has not been found in Santa Barbara or Imperial counties, the task force has said, but they are included in the quarantine to provide a "buffer zone" around the infected counties.

One county not included in the federal quarantine is Kern County, where two flocks were recently found to have Exotic Newcastle disease.

The task force had spent more than $105 million fighting the disease, as of Thursday.

According to Woodfork, that number includes how much was spent in California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas. No commercial farms have been found infected outside of California. In Texas, the disease was found in a backyard flock in mid-April, and 39 properties are thought to have had "dangerous contact" with the disease. The task force has placed 494 properties in Texas under "strict" quarantine. In Arizona and Nevada, the outbreak seems to be fully under control.

"They are winding down and totally closing out," Woodfork said. The task force no longer has operations in Arizona, and only one person remains in Nevada, he said.

In California, where the outbreak has been the most severe, the task force has spent $97.2 million, he said.

Numerous task force representatives have said that there is no set limit to how much will be spent to eradicate the disease, which they say poses a threat to California's commercial poultry industry.

The disease was first found in a flock of backyard chickens in Compton in October.

The last time a large-scale outbreak of Exotic Newcastle disease hit the state was 1971. At that time, 12 million birds were killed at a cost to the government of $56 million.

Contact staff writer Kathryn Gillick at (760) 740-5412 or

West Central Tribune, Minnesota

Poultry industry on the lookout for contagious Newcastle disease
By David Little, Staff Writer

WILLMAR -- Commercial poultry producers have stepped up biosecurity efforts at area farms.

A rooster brought to the Kandiyohi County Humane Society in March raised fears a highly contagious poultry disease killing millions of birds in the southwestern United States might have reached Minnesota.

The local poultry industry became alarmed because the rooster looked like a fighting cock: Its red comb was cut back and the leg and breast feathers were plucked. Such illegal "game fowl'' are raised in backyard poultry flocks in southern California where exotic Newcastle disease (END) was diagnosed last October.

Dr. Dale Lauer, director of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health's Poultry Testing Laboratory in Willmar, said this type of poultry is very unusual in Willmar.

"One would have to suspect some type of activity that's a little beyond the norm,'' said Lauer. "It looks like the type of poultry that did not originate from this area. Maybe it came in from some place. Who knows. But certainly, at the board we're going to respond. We're going to consider this a threat, just like foot and mouth disease.''

END is a very serious, contagious and often fatal viral disease that affects most species of birds, veterinarians say. Birds with END may have respiratory, nervous or gastrointestinal signs, or birds may die without showing any signs. Some bird species can be infected without showing signs and spread the disease to other birds. A death rate of almost 100 percent can occur in unvaccinated flocks, while vaccinated birds can still die from END.

Details of the disease

The disease is called "exotic'' because it originated in another country. Newcastle disease came to international attention when it was discovered in Newcastle on Tyne, England, in 1926, according to a Web site maintained by New South Wales Agriculture, Australia. Strains of Newcastle can now be found in most countries, the Web site said.

Besides California, END has been diagnosed in Arizona, Nevada and Texas. The California Department of Food and Agriculture said it has quarantined 17,068 premises, of which 1,539 had infected birds. Of those, 22 premises were commercial poultry facilities, the department said. A total of 3,491,418 birds have been humanely destroyed.

The disease is transmitted through droppings and secretions from the nose, mouth and eyes. END spreads rapidly among birds kept in confinement. A bird's discharges contain high concentrations of END. Therefore, the disease can be spread easily by mechanical means. Virus-bearing material can be picked up on shoes and clothing and carried from an infected flock to a healthy one, says a Board of Animal Health brochure.

Rooster at shelter

Local poultry industry officials and veterinarians don't know if the rooster was actually transported from the southwestern United States, or where he came from. Dr. Ron Lippert, staff veterinarian at Willmar Poultry Company, which raises turkeys, said many of the company's farm employees are mobile.

"They don't settle to make a career picking eggs at Willmar Poultry Company. They work 'til they have money to go home and come back when they need money again. Home could be Texas or Mexico or California,'' said Lippert.

The rooster was brought to the Humane Society shelter by Willmar Police, said society president Sally Hammond. The bird, which the society nicknamed Rudy, was placed at a farm for a while, then was returned to the shelter, said Hammond.

The poultry industry learned about the apparently healthy rooster when a photo of Rudy eating kitten food at the shelter was published March 14 on the front page of the Tribune.

Industry officials notified the Minnesota Board of Animal Health on March 17. A board veterinarian collected Rudy from the Humane Society and transported the bird to the laboratory in St. Paul for testing. Tests showed Rudy was not carrying END, said Lauer.

The disease incubates from 2 to 15 days before showing any signs. Hammond said the shelter had Rudy for 16 days.

Market reaction

Although Rudy was not infected, industry officials were worried about a possible END infection. Producers fear foreign customers will stop buying poultry products from farms infected with END, even though veterinarians say Newcastle disease is not a public health threat and does not affect the safety of the meat or eggs.

"If exotic Newcastle did get into Minnesota, those countries would probably restrict our product from going into their countries initially, and then what we would end up doing is negotiating with those countries through our U.S. trade negotiators to get the product back in,'' said Dave Juhlke, vice president of human resources and administration for Jennie-O Turkey Store of Willmar.

"Their initial reaction is to just shut things down, and then you have to negotiate your way back in. We would approach and encourage the U.S. trade representatives to open the market back up,'' he said.

The Minnesota Turkey Growers Association said Minnesota is No. 1 in turkey production in the United States, raising about 44 million birds and generating nearly $600 million in income for producers, processors and related industries. Kandiyohi County is the top turkey-producing county with 20,228,952 turkeys.

The association said 90 percent of turkey products processed in the state are exported out of Minnesota. Of that amount, 15 percent is exported to international markets. The top five export markets are Mexico, Russia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Dominican Republic.

The Board of Animal Health urges producers to increase their biosecurity practices. Willmar Poultry Company, which raises thousands of turkeys on area farms, now requires workers and visitors to take showers before entering company turkey barns, rather than just wear overcoats, hats and footwear coverings. Also, WPC employees agree in writing to not own poultry or any pet birds.

Lippert said the intent is to have biosecurity high enough to prevent introduction of END to healthy birds. But he said there is no such thing as perfect biosecurity.

"We do everything we can and hope for the best,'' said Lippert. "We want the bird owners of the world to do everything they can do.''

San Bernardino Sun, CA,1413,208~12588~1398431,00.html

Photographs stand in for live poultry shows
By ALAN SCHNEPF, Staff Writer
VICTORVILLE - It's been a tough year for poultry people.

Exotic Newcastle disease has been ravaging flocks of chickens in Southern California. And it's so infectious that bringing birds from different farms together can be the equivalent of giving them a death sentence if one of them is carrying the virus.

In an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease, state officials issued an order earlier this year that prohibits poultry exhibitions at fairs.

It could have been quite a let-down to the kids who put in months of hard work raising show chickens to display at such contests.

But organizers of the San Bernardino County Fair didn't want all the hard work to be for nothing. So, the children who participated took photographs of their birds.

Rose Marotta, the fair's poultry superintendent, said a normal year draws between 300 and 400 entries into the poultry competition. This year, there were 79 entries.

But Bob La Mar, a longtime bird breeder who judged the entries, said it was important to have some kind of event.

"If this Newcastle keeps up, the kids will get out of poultry. There's no shows and no sales,' La Mar said. "This is a way to keep them into poultry.'

Marotta said she expects live poultry shows will resume in fall 2004. "You really won't see any poultry shows until the fall of 2004 is what I'm expecting,' she said.

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