Newcastle Disease in Chickens - What is it? Signs and Treatment

Newcastle Disease in Chickens - What is it and what are the symptoms?

Newcastle disease is a highly contagious viral infection caused by avian paramyxovirus serotype 1 virus among poultry, wild birds and caged birds. Depending on the strain, Newcastle disease can have a fatality rate of 100% with little to no symptoms.

The viral part of Newcastle disease affects the respiratory system. It presents itself as an acute respiratory illness. It also compromises the digestive system as well as the nervous system.

While there are many strains, they fall into two main types. The milder Australian Strain and also the highly virulent exotic (overseas) strain. The overseas strains are more infectious. They also have a higher mortality rate.

At present thanks to stringent border security measures, the exotic Newcastle disease is not in Australia. However, you should not dismiss the Australian strain. As this is a disease that is difficult to control, causing widespread damage, it is legally required to report any suspicious chicken deaths to your Vet.

Signs and symptoms of Newcastle Disease

  • Respiratory symptoms: coughing and sneezing, rattling breathing. Increased respiration
  • Diarrhoea, yellowish-green in colour
  • Nervous characteristics, tremors and even a twisting of the neck
  • Depression
  • Few eggs produced
  • Softshell eggs
  • Symptoms can intensify rapidly

Treatments Available

There is no treatment however vaccinations are available. If you suspect a possible infection outbreak of any type, contact your Vet.

How does it spread?

Wild birds spread the disease. They spread the virus through droppings as well as expired air from infected birds. Also, direct contact with an infected or dead bird. The disease can infect healthy chickens. Other transmission forms include contaminated food, water as well as contact with humans and equipment that have been in contact with infected birds.

To prevent the possibility of Newcastle Disease infection there are steps you can take:

  • Vaccinate against Newcastle disease - contact your vet
  • Keep rodents out of the chicken coop
  • Reduce the chance of contamination of food and water from wild birds and animals. Use bird netting on the top of your coop to keep pest birds out.
  • Always wash hands after dealing with birds

Can it infect humans?

This contagious disease can affect humans, however, it is uncommon. In humans, the virus presents itself as mild flu with headaches and conjunctivitis.

You cannot catch Newcastle disease through cooked meat.

Is Newcastle Disease the same as Bird Flu?

This is not avian flu. The paramyxovirus causes it.