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Migratory waterfowl threaten domestic poultry.

Sporadic reports of wild waterfowl nestlings infected with an unusual strain of Newcastle disease came out of the upper Midwest last summer.

Potentially fatal to young chickens, turkeys and other domestic birds, the disease killed hundreds of young pelicans and cormorants whose parents spend their summer nesting season on countless lakes and ponds that dot both sides of the border between the United States and Canada.

Since domestic and wild waterfowl often swim in the same ponds, and with the fall migration season, a representative of the Maryland Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources was concerned that backlot poultry operations throughout the nation's Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions could face a health danger.

That person is Edward T. Mallinson, a poultry veterinarian for the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Maryland System, and a faculty member at the College Park campus of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Mallinson notes that most large commercial flocks are routinely vaccinated against Newcastle and to other major poultry diseases, but many small flocks do not have this immunity protection.

Mallinson reports that officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the U.S. Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service found the disease among young pelicans and cormorants in nesting colonies throughout northern Minnesota, South Dakota and Michigan, as well as Ontario, Canada.

A flock of infected young range turkeys was found in North Dakota. That flock was depopulated by USDA officials, and the owner was reimbursed for his loss.

Scientists have identified the virus involved as velogenic neurotropic Newcastle, a different strain than the more common velogenic viscerotropic virus that causes exotic Newcastle, a disease common in pet birds imported illegally from tropical areas.

Mallinson points out that Newcastle is a respiratory disease. Like other poultry respiratory diseases, it tends to become more prevalent with the advent of cold weather. Symptoms include sneezing, coughing, a drop in egg production, misshapen eggs and nervous disorders.

This new strain of Newcastle primarily affects the nervous system of birds.

Neither strain of Newcastle disease is considered a health hazard for consumers of eggs and poultry.

In addition to the threat posed by migrating wild waterfowl, Mallinson says, the potential exists for bringing New Castle Disease to the Mid-Atlantic area through poultry auction markets. For instance, live poultry from Michigan are sometimes shipped to Ohio and then to poultry auction markets in the Mid-Atlantic area.

Mallinson recommends that poultry producers with unvaccinated flocks take the following precautionary measures, most of which also are suggested by the USDA:

* Keep all domestic fowl in houses that have no openings or holes in order to prevent possible contact with wild birds.

* Don't spread feed on the ground, or allow corn and other grain to accumulate and attract wild waterfowl.

* Permit only essential personnel and vehicles to enter your farm. Sanitize all vehicles and tires that pass through your farm gate.

* Clean and disinfect all poultry houses before bringing in new flocks.

* Avoid using water from streams or ponds where wild waterfowl may have congregated.

* Control the movement of all poultry and poultry products from one farm to another.

* Insist that poultry service representatives keep in mind that the last farm they visited may have been infected.

Mallinson also admonishes hunters not to dress wild waterfowl in buildings where domestic poultry is housed.
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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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