NOTE: Information Resources on Newcastle Disease in Birds may be viewed as individual chapters below, or as one complete publication file newcastle.htm.

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Information Resources on Newcastle Disease in Birds

AWIC Resource Series No. 23

May 2003

Compiled by:

Jean A. Larson

Animal Welfare Information Center

National Agricultural Library

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Published by:

U. S. Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

National Agricultural Library

Animal Welfare Information Center

Beltsville, Maryland 20705

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About the disease:

There are vaccines available for many strains of Newcastle disease, although, it is not unusual for new (exotic) very contagious and virulent disease strains to break out somewhere around the world on a regular basis.  Among the various strains of the Newcastle virus, there are various levels of lethality. The most virulent (velogenic) strains can cause rapid onset of disease and kill almost 100% of the infected birds. There are naturally milder forms that are not as deadly (lentogenic).  The virus can infect all species of birds--both domesticated and wild bird populations.  The impact of the disease even in mild forms is a drastic reduction in the commercial production of eggs and broilers.  For more information about the disease and its effects, the reader is referred to the relevant artices on the topic in the online version of the Merck Veterinary Manual (See the World Wide Web links 1-4 below).  Newcastle disease is a biosecurity threat to the US poultry industry as stopping the spread of the virus requires a rapid response to stem the spread and limit economic losses due to the disease.


The 2002-2003 epidemic of END in the US:

An outbreak of a virulent form of the disease has broken out in the US in the state of California.  A sick chicken from a backyard flock appears to be the means of entry into California poultry flocks.  When the bird exhibited signs of illness, it was taken, on September 25, 2002, to a private veterinary practioner in Torrence, CA.  The bird was found to have a very pathogenic strain (velogenic) of the exotic Newcastle disease (END). This bird or “index case” is considered to be the carrier of the very infectous and pathogenic virus that spread quickly into backyard poultry then moved from there into poultry production facilities in Southern California.  This is the first time since the 1971-73 outbreak of END that the disease has been of epidemic proportions in California.  The main methods of transmission of the disease from one location to another seem to have been via bird to bird contact, human activities, insects, rodents, cages, machinery equipment and infected eggs.  It then spread to other areas of the state.  Since this exotic strain of Newcastle disease was first identified, millions of birds have been sacrificed in California and as of May 2003, it has not been contained by depopulation and quarantine.  At the time of publication, commercial flocks and back yard flocks in seven counties in California have been affected. Additional areas of the state are under quarantine.    The disease had spread to adjacent states of Nevada, Arizona but the outbreak there seems to be under control through the use of depopulation and quarantine by government response teams. 


An outbreak of the virus had been detected in Texas, in May of 2003.  DNA sequencing analysis confirmed that the Texas strain was caused by a separate introduction of the disease and not due by movement from affected areas in California, Nevada or Arizona. Intense surveillance, and early detection in El Paso County, seems to have contained and eliminated the disease in Texas.


It was with the current epidemic in the US and the possibility of such epidemics emerging in other places in the world that this resource was developed.  It is not comprehensive as the focus of the document is mainly the US.  The bibliographic information highlights the recent research that has been published on the disease.  Topics include information about the disease process, susceptible species of birds, genetics, prevention and control measures, vaccination, vaccines, etc.  There are also relevant USDA sponsored research and informative and credible websites listed.












The bibliographic information currently in this document is from the AGRICOLA database.  The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) sponsored research listed was obtained from the USDA’s CRIS database which lists current research funded by USDA both within the Department and universities.   The time span is from 2002 back to 1998. Note that this is a dynamic document and there may be additions and other changes to this resource.

             Information on how to request materials that are included in the collection of the National Agricultural Library (NAL) may be found on the Collection Services website at Please read carefully as there are certain restrictions on media and document types.


If the reader is aware of important science-based information that needs to be added to this document, please feel free to contact AWIC



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The Animal Welfare Information Center,
Updated July 7, 2004