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8:43 AM Wed, Nov. 14th

Poultry disease has not arrived in Arizona - yet

A deadly poultry disease in Southern California hasn't reached Arizona, but area residents that keep flocks of chickens in their yards should be on guard.

Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) was discovered in September in backyard chicken flocks in Los Angeles County.

Chickens in Riverside, Sam Bernardino, San Diego and Orange counties were quarantined in December.

Santa Barbara, Ventura and Imperial counties have now been added to the quarantine list, although no infected chickens have been found among commercial interests in those three counties.

California is the nation's third-largest egg producer, according to an AP story.

More than three-fourths of the state's 12 million egg-laying hens are in the quarantine zone.

The virus can infect humans, although the disease in people is normally limited to mild eye inflammation (pink eye).

Newcastle Disease is caused by a virus, which can divide into three groups – mesogenic, lentogenic and velogenic.

The velogenic virus turns into END.

Morbidity (numbers of birds infected) and mortality (numbers dying) is close to 100 percent in susceptible species.

"There is no direct evidence as yet that Exotic Newcastle Disease has gotten into Arizona," said Peder (cq) Cuneo, extension veterinarian with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Arizona.

"But people who keep chickens should take precautions.

Avoid contact with any birds from the quarantine area or people who have come out of that area."

Boots, feed sacks, egg trays, flies, mice or people may spread END.

Cuneo said the virus is not a hardy one and people in the quarantine zone will not spread it if they change clothes, wash their hands and shower.

A dramatic decrease in egg production is noted once chickens are infected with the virus.

Symptoms of the disease include swelling of the head and eyes, respiratory problems, greenish-dark diarrhea, and nervous signs that may include drooping wings, dragging legs and twisted head.

"The outbreak in California has been smoldering in backyard flocks since the late fall," Cuneo said.

"It has been difficult for the state to get a handle on it because small private flocks are not registered.

You almost have to go door-to-door to find it."

A statewide outbreak of Newcastle Disease in California in the early 1970s threatened the U.S.

poultry and egg industry.

Efforts to stop the disease cost $56 million and led to the destruction of almost 12 million chickens.

Cuneo said Hickman Farms in Phoenix is Arizona's only large commercial egg producer.

Managers there are concerned about END and are instituting extra safeguards, he said.

In addition to chickens, poultry species under the California quarantine include turkeys, ducks, geese, partridges, pheasants, quail, guinea fowl, peacocks, doves, pigeons, swans, ratites and ratite eggs.

Cockatiels and cockatoos, kept as house pets by some people, also are vulnerable to END.

Macaws, lories, African gray parrots, finches and canaries have a degree of resistance to the disease, but may be carriers.

An administrative order implementing procedures to prevent the spread of END into the state was issued Tuesday by the Arizona Department of Agriculture.

It states that no equipment used in the processing of eggs or housing, feeding or watering of birds from the quarantine area shall be brought into Arizona from the quarantine zone, unless accompanied by an official certificate of cleaning and disinfection.

All commercial vehicles transporting such items must stop at a Port-of-Entry station and provide the necessary proof to an inspector.

The order further requires all vehicles transporting birds to stop at the POE station and provide an agricultural inspector there with an original health certificate issued by an accredited veterinarian showing the bird(s) are healthy and did not originate in the quarantine zone.

The order will remain in effect indefinitely, said Rae (cq) Chornenky, legislative liaison for the state Department of Agriculture.

"Folks may not be aware they can become carriers of the virus from their backyard flocks," Chornenky said.

"If you have a flock with one infected bird, just walking through the dirt where the flock is kept could be all it takes to spread the virus."

Anyone with a bird exhibiting the aforementioned symptoms should immediately contact the state veterinary office at 602-542-4293, Cuneo said.

Persons wishing more information about the disease may contact the state Department of Agriculture Newcastle Disease information line at 1-888-742-5334 or visit the website at www.agriculture.state.az.us.