Newcastle disease (ND) is a highly contagious and fatal viral disease affecting the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds. ND is caused by an avian paramyxovirus Type 1 (APVM-1) virus. APMV-1 strains are classified into 3 pathotypes, based on their virulence in chickens:
- lentogenic strains are the least virulent
- mesogenic strains are moderately virulent
- velogenic strains are the most virulent
Newcastle disease is a provincially and federally reportable disease. While it has never been reported in domestic poultry in Canada, a small number of cases have been detected in Canada's wild bird population.
Find out about Newcastle disease in Alberta wildlife.
How to report
Newcastle disease is a provincially reportable disease for poultry under Alberta’s Animal Health Act and requires immediate action to control or eradicate it.
All suspected or confirmed cases must be reported to the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian (OCPV) within 24 hours:
Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
After business hours: 1-800-524-0051
The OCPV should also be notified if Newcastle disease is found in wild birds in the province for additional monitoring, detection and prevention.
Newcastle disease is a viral disease of chickens, turkeys, and wild and pet birds. Clinically, ND varies widely, depending on the virus strain and host species. Generally, chickens are highly susceptible, whereas turkeys and pigeons are less so. Ducks and geese are refractory, with peafowl, guineafowl, pheasant and quail exhibiting mild disease. Typically, there is no persistent infection in domestic poultry.
For more information see Newcastle Disease – Technical guidance for veterinarians (CFIA).
Signs of the disease in poultry include:
- muscular tremors
- drop in egg production
- high number of sudden deaths in flock
Where it’s found
Newcastle disease is not present in Canadian poultry. Along with Canada, see which countries are recognized as being free of this disease.
Between May 17, 2018 and May 31, 2020, the USDA confirmed 476 premises in California, including 4 commercial premises, as infected with ND. The USDA also confirmed single cases of ND in backyard flocks in Utah and Arizona linked to the introduction of live birds from California. Since June 2020, the virus has been completely eliminated and there are currently no infected poultry premises. In June 2020 the US was officially recognized by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as being free of the disease.
For more information, see Virulent Newcastle Disease (USDA).
How it spreads
Newcastle disease is mainly transmitted by direct contact with diseased birds.
Infected birds may shed the virus in their feces and bodily secretions, contaminating the environment. The virus can survive for days in litter, feed, water, soil, carcasses, eggs and feathers. The disease spreads rapidly among birds in close confinement.
The virus can also spread unintentionally through the movement of contaminated material, footwear and equipment. For more information, see Newcastle Disease (Canadian Food Inspection Agency).
Risk to humans
In humans, the ND virus has occasionally caused conjunctivitis (pink eye) in laboratory or farm workers who are not wearing protective eyewear. The risk of contracting Newcastle disease is minimal if protective gear is worn and hands are washed after handling sick birds.
Person-to-person transmission of ND virus has not been reported.
Prevention and treatment
Vaccines are available for use in commercial poultry. Although there are no vaccines available for backyard flocks, it is recommended that flock owners contact their hatchery for information on available vaccinated chicks. It is not currently possible to vaccinate wild birds.
There is no treatment for ND.
The implementation of an effective avian biosecurity plan by producers is essential in protecting domestic poultry from diseases like Newcastle disease, Infectious laryngotracheitis and Avian influenza.
- restrict visitor access to your bird areas and avoid entering other people's bird areas
- wash hands and scrub boots before and after entering bird areas
- clean and disinfect tools and equipment that come in contact with your birds or their environment
- quarantine any birds returning from shows for 30 days before reintroducing them to your flock
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