Northern Irish flock keepers have been urged to review their biosecurity measures after two cases of a highly infectious poultry disease have been confirmed on commercial poultry farms in Belgium.

What is Newcastle Disease?

Newcastle Disease is a highly infectious disease affecting poultry and other birds. The disease affects chickens and other captive and wild birds.

Humans aren’t normally affected, but people in direct contact with infected birds may develop a very short-term eye infection, which passes without treatment.

The disease was last confirmed in Great Britain in 2006.

Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer has urged flock keepers to review their biosec

Newcastle Disease is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect it you must report it immediately by contacting your region’s Department of Agriculture.

How to spot Newcastle disease

As the disease develops affected birds may show some of the following signs:

  • Respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling;
  • Nervous signs characterised by tremors and paralysis and twisting of the neck;
  • Unusually watery faeces (diarrhoea) that are yellowish-green in colour;
  • Depression;
  • Lack of appetite.

Affected hens may also suddenly produce fewer eggs. Eggs that are laid may be soft-shelled.

The disease may lead to intense clinical signs, with a sudden onset leading to likely death. Or it may have a lesser affect, with breathing problems and lower egg production the only detectable clinical signs.

How Newcastle disease is spread

The disease is spread by direct contact with bodily fluids of infected birds, especially their faeces.

It can also be spread indirectly through people and objects that have been in contact with infected birds, or their faeces.

Objects that can carry the disease include:
  • Vehicles;
  • Equipment;
  • Clothing;
  • Water and feed.

The disease can spread from wild to kept birds. Pigeons may carry pigeon paramyxovirus, which can cause Newcastle disease in kept birds.

Preventing and controlling Newcastle disease

You can help prevent the disease by:

If you report suspicion of Newcastle disease, APHA vets will investigate.

Current Situation

Newcastle Disease has been detected in two commercial poultry premises in the East Flanders region of Belgium.

The disease last occurred in Northern Ireland in 1997 when 1.4 million poultry were slaughtered.

This is a timely reminder for all bird keepers, even if they only keep one bird, to maintain high biosecurity standards and to remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flock.

Bird keepers are reminded of the importance of excellent biosecurity and anyone concerned about their birds should contact their private veterinary practitioner or their local Divisional Veterinary Office.