August 10, 2012
Newcastle Disease Suspected in Wild Water Birds
Poultry farmers encouraged to maintain strict biosecurity
On August 7 the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources(DNR) reported that hundreds of double-crested cormorants and ring-billed gulls on Pigeon Lake in Meeker County and Minnesota Lake in Faribault County died from an avian virus suspected to be Newcastle disease. Final laboratory test results to determine virulence are expected later this month. The dead birds tested negative for avian influenza. Poultry farmers should closely observe their flocks and follow biosecurity measures to help prevent an introduction of the disease into their flocks.
Wild birds can be a potential source of Newcastle disease and can transmit the virus to domestic poultry if there is contact with them. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health recommends that poultry producers, large and small, increase their on-farm biosecurity practices to prevent introductions into their poultry operations. Such practices include visitor and vehicle restrictions, preventing wild bird introductions (especially birds that tend to nest in or feed with domestic birds), controlling movements associated with the handling and disposal of bird carcasses, litter and manure, and monitoring poultry flocks for any signs of illness. Testing sick birds at a poultry diagnostic laboratory is essential in order to establish an accurate disease diagnosis.
Newcastle disease outbreaks in Minnesota occurred during 2008 and 2010, when several thousand wild water birds died across the state. At that time it was determined that the virus strain was virulent, or when identified in domestic poultry known as Exotic Newcastle Disease (END). END is a highly contagious, viral disease that affects all species of birds. The disease spreads rapidly and causes high mortality rates, sometimes without the birds ever showing any signs of sickness.
END is spread primarily through direct contact between healthy and sick birds through droppings and secretions from the beak, sinuses, and eyes. Birds infected with END may show any of the following symptoms: sudden death, lack of energy and appetite, decreased egg production, diarrhea, nervous system disorders (tremors, paralysis), and severe respiratory signs such as nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing.
If producers observe birds showing any of the clinical signs listed above, they should immediately contact their veterinarian, the Board of Animal Health (320-231-5170) or the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (1-800-605-8787).
Stearns County Heifer Tests Positive for Rabies
On August 5, a cattle farmer in Stearns County called in a local veterinarian after noticing one of his heifers was down and banging its head into a wall. The veterinarian arrived on the property and noted the heifer had facial twitching and was aggressive, vocalizing, and had a temperature of 108 degrees. The veterinarian suspected rabies and advised the farmer to euthanize the animal. The heifer tested positive for rabies on August 8.
There are other cattle on the property in addition to a number of unvaccinated cats and two dogs. A Board of Animal Health district veterinarian will be visiting the property to investigate any exposure the other animals on the property had to the rabid heifer.
This is the first case of bovine rabies in Stearns County this year, making it the third bovine case in the state in 2012. Two bats and one skunk in Stearns County have also tested positive for rabies this year.
For information on rabies in animals and to view a map of positive cases in Minnesota, visit the Board's website. For more information on rabies in people, please contact the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-5414.
Heat Causes Influx of Untestable Samples for Rabies Testing
Due to this summer's extreme heat, more samples than expected have been unable to be tested for rabies due to deterioration.
Please ensure that specimens are delivered to the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MVDL) as quickly as possible after collecting the sample. Properly care for the sample by keeping it cool but not frozen both before and during shipping.
For more details and instructions see the back of the Rabies Specimen Submission Form for details on shipping specimens.