New­cas­tle dis­ease

Sporting Shooter - - Ask The Experts -


Can New­cas­tle dis­ease af­fect pheasants? Do we need to worry about it dur­ing the shoot­ing sea­son?


RITA ALVES of Dal­ton’s Game Con­sul­tancy replies: New­cas­tle dis­ease (ND) is a no­ti­fi­able dis­ease caused by a virus called Paramyx­ovirus Type 1. Over 250 bird species are sus­cep­ti­ble to the dis­ease in­clud­ing pheasants and par­tridges. The last vir­u­lent out­break in Eng­land was in 2005 in pheasants im­ported from France.

Clin­i­cal signs in­clude res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease such as cough­ing, gap­ing beak, sneez­ing, rat­tling, di­ar­rhea (usu­ally yel­low­ish green in colour), ner­vous signs char­ac­terised by tre­mors and paral­y­sis and twist­ing of the neck, de­pres­sion and lack of ap­petite.

Hens may stop lay­ing or pro­duce mis­shapen eggs. In se­vere out­breaks, mor­tal­ity can reach 90%. The virus is highly con­ta­gious and can spread through di­rect con­tact with fae­ces and res­pi­ra­tory dis­charge be­tween birds or by con­tam­i­nated food, wa­ter, equip­ment (such as trucks) and hu­man cloth­ing. Game birds can present un­usual clin­i­cal signs or even no clin­i­cal signs when in­fected with strains of the ND virus, in­clud­ing some that would cause dis­ease in chick­ens.

This sum­mer, there have been sev­eral out­breaks of the dis­ease in Bel­gium in hobby birds – mainly chick­ens – and in two poul­try com­mer­cial sites. As I write this, the UK is at medium risk, which means events can oc­cur reg­u­larly. The dis­ease could be in­tro­duced to the UK through the move­ment of live birds or wild birds, con­tact with fomites and con­tam­i­nated equip­ment, cloth­ing or trans­port or con­tact with in­fected meat and meat prod­ucts.

As there are a va­ri­ety of species of wild birds that may be sus­cep­ti­ble and may act as a reser­voir for ND, you should make rea­son­able ef­forts to min­imise the chance of wild birds ac­cess­ing the same feed and wa­ter you pro­vide to your birds.

Keep vig­i­lant for any signs of dis­ease and keep high stan­dards of biose­cu­rity in the shoot such as dis­in­fect­ing boots, wash­ing and dis­in­fect­ing drinkers and wash­ing hands, espe­cially af­ter han­dling dead birds.

New­cas­tle dis­ease is a mild zoono­sis (dis­ease of an­i­mals that can also in­fect hu­mans) and can cause con­junc­tivi­tis in hu­mans, but the con­di­tion is gen­er­ally very mild and self-lim­it­ing. If you have any con­cerns about the dis­ease al­ways speak to your vet. You can also check gov­ern­ment web­sites (e.g. De­fra) as they are up­dated with the lat­est in­for­ma­tion on the dis­ease.

Please note: the in­for­ma­tion writ­ten on the last ND out­breaks recorded might be out­dated by the time the ar­ti­cle is pub­lished

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