Double-crested cormorants on two islands off the Door County peninsula have tested positive for a virulent form of Newcastle disease, prompting animal health officials to caution poultry farmers to step up their vigilance.
According to State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Ehlenfeldt, there is no human health threat from Newcastle disease, which is caused by a virus that infects only birds. The disease was found during routine testing of dead birds found on Pilot Island and Spider Island by natural resources agencies.
“The virulent form of Newcastle disease can be transmitted to domestic poultry, creating hardship for those producers, and probably causing other nations to close their doors to poultry and poultry products from the United States,” Ehlenfeldt says. “While previous outbreaks in the United States have spread to domestic poultry only once, we do want poultry owners to be aware of the potential.”
Cormorants from Door County will begin migrating soon, following the western shore of Lake Michigan and possibly exposing wild and domestic birds to the virus. The department is sending information to Door County and other eastern Wisconsin poultry owners on the state’s livestock premises registration list. In three previous Wisconsin outbreaks, including one in 2006 on Pilot Island, the disease did not spread to domestic poultry.
Symptoms of Newcastle disease include respiratory problems such as sneezing, gasping, coughing and nasal discharge; diarrhea; low energy and loss of appetite; drop in egg production or misshapen and soft-shelled eggs; nervous system impairment such as trembling, drooping wings, circling, and twisting or paralysis of the head and neck; swelling around the head; and purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs.
Poultry owners who see any of these signs should call their veterinarian immediately.
From: Wisconsin Ag Connection