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John Miranowski, economics, (515) 294-6132
Don Reynolds, veterinary medicine, (515) 294-9348
Kevin Vinchattle, Iowa Poultry Association, (515) 727-4701
Bridget Bailey, News Service, (515) 294-6881


AMES, Iowa -- If exotic Newcastle disease (END) spreads to Iowa and infects Iowa poultry, the impact on the industry--and on the state's economy--would be significant, says John Miranowski, an Iowa State University professor of agricultural economics.

Iowa is the nation's leading producer of eggs. There are about 40 million egg layers in the state, according to the Iowa Poultry Association. An outbreak of END in the state could result in a loss of $185 million in egg sales.

The disease has spread from backyard flocks to commercial flocks in California and has been found in Arizona and Nevada.

END primarily affects birds. It can be passed to other birds through nasal secretions, sneezes or coughs. The disease can cause a number of problems in poultry, ranging from a sudden onset of death in the most dangerous form to coughing and wheezing found in the more mild forms of Newcastle. In laying chickens, milder strains can often decrease egg production. The disease also can infect humans, causing pink eye.

"Egg production and manufacturing generate over $600 million in sales per year and the industry has a $750 million impact on the Iowa economy," Miranowski said. These are upper bound impacts on Iowa if END were to strike Iowa flocks.

Proper precautions need to be taken to minimize the risks of transmission.

"It is not probable that exotic Newcastle disease will enter into commercial poultry if bio-security measures are followed," said Don Reynolds, associate dean of Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

The END outbreak currently occurring in California and the southwestern states is being spread by backyard flocks of birds--those that are used by breed fanciers or for gamecock fighting, Reynolds said.

Just to be safe, producers can monitor blood samples and examine their poultry herds for signs of infection.

"The signs vary according to the strain of Newcastle disease and to the species of bird it infects," Reynolds said. For example, in chickens with Newcastle disease, the onset is so sudden that the birds are often found dead with no previous signs of the sickness. Other signs include twisting of the head, difficulty walking, diarrhea, strained breathing and lack of appetite.


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