Newcastle disease is a virus that circulates naturally in some Australian wild birds.
A mild form is able to mutate to a virulent form which causes a high number of deaths in all birds. Outbreaks of virulent Newcastle disease has occurred in Australia in the past and these have been successfully contained and eradicated. Australia is currently considered free of virulent Newcastle disease virus.
It is mandatory by law for certain chickens to be vaccinated for Newcastle disease in South Australia (see below).
Newcastle disease is not considered a human health risk.
Symptoms in birds
Poultry infected with Newcastle disease may show the following symptoms:
- swollen head
- nasal discharge
- loss of appetite
- drop in egg production
- misshapen or thin-shelled eggs
- respiratory distress including coughing and gasping
- diarrhoea that may be bright green
- loss of appetite
- sudden death or increase in mortality rate
- nervous signs including paralysis and convulsions
Reporting Newcastle disease
Please contact your local veterinarian or phone the Animal Disease Hotline immediately on 1800 675 888 if your birds are showing any of the symptoms listed above.
Vaccinations for Newcastle disease
Under the Livestock Act 1997, any poultry flock with over 1,000 chickens, where at least one chicken in is over 24 weeks of age must be vaccinated with Newcastle disease vaccine in accordance with the National Newcastle Disease Management Plan coordinated by Animal Health Australia.
Commercial broilers exempt from Newcastle disease vaccination must be serologically monitored in accordance with the aforementioned plan.
Chickens for use in the commercial chicken industry as egg laying or breeding birds must be vaccinated for Newcastle disease before they enter South Australia. See Poultry movement in South Australia.