The San Mateo County State Fair has canceled its poultry entries for the 2019 fair this summer after a single rooster was determined to have died in Redwood City as a result of virulent Newcastle disease, an extremely dangerous concern for the poultry industry. Officials say other county fairs are likely to follow suit.
The rooster belonged to a person who told authorities they lived in Hayward and kept a flock of birds in Tracy, according to San Mateo County Agriculture Commissioner Fred Crowder. All of those birds have reportedly died. Crowder said, at present, investigators are focusing their efforts to pinpoint the problem on Alameda County and not San Mateo County.
State and local officials became aware of the situation on Wednesday and it became a matter of public attention after the fair board’s release on Thursday afternoon.
The disease is contained in a virus that manifests as respiratory problems, diarrhea and other problems that almost always result in death of the birds. The virus is airborne and can also be found in feces and eggs as well. It can also be transmitted by water fowl to poultry far away from the original source.
Those with infected birds are required to report the disease to regulators and trade restrictions can result from an outbreak. The disease can cause conjunctivitis among people who come into contact with large quantities of the virus, such as laboratory workers, but has never been reported in people who rear or consume poultry products, according to the Merck Manual of veterinary medicine.
Crowder said local veterinarians are trained to spot the disease. Anyone who has health concerns about their own birds should contact a veterinarian.
County fair officials announced they were suspending the poultry show in a prepared release issued on Thursday afternoon. Poultry entries accounted for 241 of the 5,818 entries into last year’s county fair.
Statewide, millions of birds have been “depopulated” as a result of Newcastle disease, Crowder said. “This is serious,” he explained. “For poultry, it’s disastrous.”
Crowder said a quarantine exists in parts of Southern California. One theory: the dead birds might have been fighting cocks, brought north in violation of federal agricultural laws.
Crowder said it’s extremely rare to see a case of the disease here.
“Almost never,” he said. “This is the kind of thing that is out of the blue. It happens but you hope it doesn’t happen in your community.”
Crowder said the disease first manifested in show birds brought to places like local fairs in Southern California. He said he thinks many other local fairs will cancel poultry as a result and that they will remain dormant until state officials announce the disease has been eradicated.
More information about the disease and its effect in California can be found on the CDFA website.