Farm and health officials in Iowa are raising the alarm about a disease of poultry that could threaten one of Iowa’s biggest industries. Doctor Patrick Webb is a foreign animal disease coordinator with the state ag department who just spent three weeks in California discussing Newcastle Disease. In general we don’t have it in the U-S, but in October it was found in fighting chickens in California, and from those exotic birds it moved into the California egg-laying industry which makes it a big concern for Iowa. Webb says west-coast ag officials assume the virus was brought into the country through illegally-smuggled birds, probably either parrots or exotic poultry used in animal fighting. Dr. Webb says animal-health experts can hardly overstate the seriousness of the threat, which he compares to food-and-mouth disease. He says it’s spread by contact, or can be carried indirectly on clothing or hands, and even through the air for short distances so it can be transmitted quickly and in many ways. There are few symptoms and most birds simply die, killing off entire flocks in a short time. Webb says the threat isn’t necessarily that California livestock producers will spread the virus by selling birds in Iowa. A rooster isn’t very big and you can put in a crate, and Webb says there are fighting birds all over the country, so he worries that a warning about the roosters will mean they’re simply taken to another state. State ag officials want to be told about any illegally-raised chickens or animal fights, saying it’s just like turning in drug makers.
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