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By Miriam Raftery

September 7, 2019 (Ramona) – A state investigation has determined that infected birds moved from within the virulent Newcastle disease (VND) quarantine area in Riverside County led to the recent detection of the disease in the Ramona area, Dr. Annette Jones, California’s state veterinarian, announced yesterday.

She adds, “The bird movement occurred in violation of the quarantine.  It is important to note that any bird movement within a quarantined area is prohibited by law and violators are subject to fines ranging from $100 to $1,000 or up to $25,000 if a violator is proven to have moved the virus.”


Ramona was the first San Diego County location found to be harboring the dreaded disease during the current Southern California outbreak. On Facebook, some residents voiced anger at the individual who moved infected birds and urged that the person be held responsible with hefty fines, since their actions have resulted in the killing of local birds.


Jones praised the rapid actions of “responsible poultry owners” in Ramona as well as state and federal agricultural departments. While testing and surveillance continues, Jones says authorities are hopeful that the response team may have contained the virus to a small area.


Exposed birds may appear healthy, she noted, yet could be in early stages of the infection and highly contagious to other birds. “We are counting on community cooperation to help us stop the spread of VND and eradicate the disease,” Jones adds.


Mandatory euthanasia of infected as well as exposed poultry related to the current incident has occurred in both San Diego and Riverside counties. The quarantine also includes portions of San Bernadino and Los Angeles Counties where the disease has previously been found.


While euthanasia can be stressful for bird owners, it remains the only way to prevent spread once an outbreak occurs.  Not taking action could result in far more bird deaths, since the disease is fatal 90 percent of the time in chickens and is also dangerous for other poultry.  


The good news is that detections of VNC have dropped sharply in recent months as response teams continue to seek out small pockets of infection to eradicate the disease in California.


Bird owners are urged to be aware of VND signs, practice good biosecurity, and repor sick birds promptly to the Sick Bird Hotline at 866-922-2473.  For more information on VNC and biosecurity guidelines to keep birds healthy, visit www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/VND.

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