California Turkey Hunters,
Beware of Bird Disease!
The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is advising hunters of a multi-county quarantine on poultry and game birds that could affect spring turkey hunting. Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) has been found in both commercial and backyard birds. About 3 million birds have been destroyed since the disease was discovered in California. END has also been found in parts of Nevada and Arizona.

To prevent further spread of the disease, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture have imposed a quarantine on the following counties: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura. The quarantine prohibits the transportation of any birds out of the quarantine area, including live wild turkeys, or turkey carcasses.

Spring wild turkey season opened on March 29. Those planning to travel to END-positive counties will not be able to transport their game outside the quarantined areas.

Although END is extremely contagious among poultry, it does not pose a health risk to humans. Turkey hunters who harvest birds in the quarantine areas can safely consume them, or give them to someone who lives in the quarantine area, but they are prohibited from moving them outside the area.

According to Dr. Pam Swift, DFG's wildlife veterinarian, hunters need to be aware of the following:

• Any birds killed in the quarantine area must remain in the quarantine area.

• All game farms are prohibited from moving birds out of the quarantine area.

• Falconers in the quarantine area must immediately cease all movement of birds out of the area.

• Meat from any birds killed is safe to eat.

END is extremely contagious among birds. The spread is primarily through direct contact between healthy birds and the bodily fluids of infected birds. The disease is also easily spread by virus-bearing material picked up on shoes and clothing and carried from an infected flock to a healthy one. END affects the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems, with an incubation period ranging from two to 15 days. Symptoms include sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, diarrhea, listlessness and sudden death.

END can also spread from poultry flocks to wildlife as wild birds come into contact with infected poultry, possibly when wild birds enter a pen to feed on spilled grain. Although experiments have documented that several wild species including ducks and pheasants can develop the disease, widespread illness and death has only been documented in double-crested cormorants in the United States and Canada.

The DFG asks hunters and bird watchers to be on the alert for wild birds that may exhibit symptoms of this disease. This is probably one of the most infectious diseases of poultry in the world with a death rate of over 90 percent in unvaccinated poultry flocks and so virulent that many birds die without showing any clinical signs. The disease can even infect and cause death in vaccinated poultry.

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