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Newcastle Disease

Avian Pneumoencephalitis, Ranikhet Disease, Avian Distemper, Exotic Or Velogenic Newcastle Disease

Newcastle disease (ND) is a highly contagious viral disease that affects birds worldwide, including chickens. ND is caused by the virulent strains of Newcastle disease virus (NDV), also known as avian paramyxovirus serotype 1 (APMV-1). NDV belongs to the genus Avulavirus within the family Paramyxoviridae. Although it represents a single serotype, NDV has at least 19 different genotypes divided into two distinct classes based on genetic analyses.

NDV strains were originally classified into three virulence groups by chicken embryo inoculation as virulent (velogenic), moderately virulent (mesogenic), or as low virulence (lentogenic). For regulatory purposes, this classification system was modified so that velogenic and mesogenic viruses are now classified as virulent NDV, the cause of ND, and lentogenic viruses are the low virulence NDV that is used in the manufacturing of the vaccines. The most severe strain of the virus is called viscerotropic velogenic Newcastle disease (VVND), which is often referred to as 'Exotic Newcastle Disease'.

What Newcastle Disease Looks Like

The most characteristic signs of ND that occurs in chickens are manifested as a result of central nervous system dysfunction. These signs include:
  • Incoordinated (ataxia) walk and movements, where affected birds may be seen stumbling frequently, and appear to lack proper balance.
  • Abnormal head and neck position, resulting in head tilt or wry neck appearance.
  • Unilateral or bilateral partial or complete paralysis of their legs and wings.
However, the above-described clinical signs are not always seen in chickens with ND. Many affected birds may only show signs of general weakness and prostration. Diarrhea with hemorrhage is actually a classical clinical sign of the highly pathogenic (visceral, velogenic) ND in domestic chickens.

The severity of ND varies widely and is dependent on factors such as: the strain of the virus, the age of the chicken (young chicks are more susceptible), concurrent infection with other organisms, stress and immune status. Some virus strains attack the nervous system, others the respiratory, or digestive systems. Clinical signs vary depending on the system affected. There is no known effective treatment for Newcastle disease, and it is often fatal.

How Newcastle Disease is Transmitted

NDV is spread by infected birds shedding the virus in their feces, body fluids (such as respiratory secretions from the nares, mouth, and eyes), and eggs. When birds are infected with NDV that may shed large amounts of the virus. Usually all members of the flock become infected within 2 to 6 days. Infected wild waterfowl (ducks and geese) can maintain low virulence strains of the NDV to themselves and to other species, including chickens.

How Long the Virus survives in the Environment

NDV can survive for long periods of time outside of a living host, and can remain infective for several weeks in the environment, especially at low temperatures or protected by associated organic material (such as bedding litter, carcasses, water, eggs, and feathers). However, the virus is destroyed rapidly by exposure to ultraviolet rays in sunlight.

The Incubation period

The period between infection and the appearance of the first clinical sign of disease is generally between two and six days, but can be up to 15 to 21 days. It spreads rapidly through a flock. Incidents have occurred in severe virus strains, where the majority of the flock dies within 72 hours of infection, without showing any prior signs of disease.

How Newcastle disease is diagnosed

ND cannot be diagnosed based on clinical signs or post mortem lesions alone. In order to obtain a definite diagnosis of whether a chicken is infected with the NDV, one of the following three events needs to be confirmed via special laboratory tests :
  • Identification and pathotyping of the virus.
  • Demonstration of viral genetic material within the lesions.
  • A significant rise in antibody titre between acute and convalescent sera coinciding with a disease outbreak.

Clinical Signs

Head tremors
Head tilt
Twisted neck (torticollis)
Muscle spasms
Head shaking
Unilateral or bilateral, partial or complete leg or wing paralysis
Abnormal head and neck position
White to greenish watery diarrhea
Respiratory distress
Reduced appetite
Fluffed up feathers
Reduced egg production
Abnormal eggs


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Virus isolation


Report diseaseIn the United States, the exotic strain of ND is a reportable disease, meaning that if you suspect that your chicken has this disease, by law you need to report it to your veterinarian, or a state or federal veterinarian.
Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own chicken "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Calendula officinalis extract0.5 ml added to feed daily for for 7 daysS Marina et al; E Barbour et al
Vitamin A600 IU/kg of feed added to feed source dailyOkpe G et al., 2015



  • Vaccines: There are a number of different vaccines available.
  • Vitamin A : Provide supplemental Vitamin A or Vitamin-A rich foods. A study conducted on 44 cockerels found that supplementing their diet with Vitamin A delayed clinical signs of NDV and significantly reduced mortality rate (by 36%) and lessened the negative impact of the virus on their bodies.


Mortality in adult birds is usually low but may be fairly high from some virus strains.

Scientific References

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