Newcastle disease

Newcastle disease (ND) is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect many species of domestic and wild birds. In Victoria, it's compulsory to vaccinate commercial poultry flocks against ND.

The disease has several strains that differ in the severity of their clinical signs, ranging from inapparent infection to a rapidly fatal condition. It's characterised by digestive, respiratory or nervous signs.

ND first came to international attention in Newcastle upon Tyne, England in 1926. It has nothing to do with Newcastle, NSW.

If you suspect ND

Newcastle disease is a notifiable disease. This means that legally you must tell us if you know of or suspect the presence of ND in any of your birds. You can do this by calling one of the following:

  • an animal health officer or district veterinary officer at Agriculture Victoria on 136 186
  • the Emergency Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888

Regularly check your birds and immediately report any unusual signs of disease to our staff or your local vet.

Birds affected by ND

Most susceptible are:

  • domestic fowl
  • parrots
  • pigeons
  • turkeys

Milder disease is seen in:

  • canaries
  • ducks
  • geese
  • guinea fowl
  • pheasants
  • quail

Symptoms of ND

The range and severity of the clinical signs depends on:

  • the strain of virus
  • the characteristics of the bird affected, including its age, condition and species

Clinical signs in poultry can range from a mild, almost unapparent respiratory disease to:

  • a very severe depression
  • drop in egg production
  • increased respiration
  • profuse diarrhoea followed by collapse, or
  • long-term nervous signs (such as twisted necks) if the birds survive

Death rate can be up to 100% in severe forms of the disease. The incubation period is usually 5 to 6 days, but can vary from 2 to 15 days.

How ND spreads

ND usually spreads by direct physical contact with infected or diseased birds. The virus is excreted in manure and is breathed out into the air.

Other sources of infection are:

  • contaminated equipment
  • carcases
  • water
  • food
  • clothing

People and equipment can easily carry the virus from one shed or farm to another.

Risk to public health

Medical authorities have confirmed that the disease poses no public health risk to humans through consumption of eggs or poultry products.

Destroying the virus

ND virus can be easily destroyed by:

  • heat (sunlight or cooking) or
  • treatment with acids or alkalis

Direct sunlight destroys the virus within 30 minutes, but in cool weather it can survive in manure or contaminated poultry sheds for many weeks.

Normal cooking completely destroys the virus in meat. For example, at a minimum core temperature of:

  • 80°C for 1 minute
  • 75°C for 5 minutes
  • 70°C for 30 minutes

Managing outbreaks of virulent ND in Australia

ND prevention in Australia is managed under the National Newcastle Disease Management Plan 2020.

Australia is currently free of virulent ND. Avirulent strains of ND virus are present in wild birds in most countries, including Australia.  The last outbreak of virulent ND in Victoria occurred in 2002.

When virulent ND is found in Australia, the incidents are managed according to the AUSVETPLAN disease strategy for the control and eradication of Newcastle disease.

Attempts to eradicate the virus involve:

  • 'stamping out' or destroying all birds that might have been exposed to the virus
  • disposing of any infected or exposed products

This is done in conjunction with:

  • strict quarantine and movement controls to contain the virus
  • decontamination to remove any remaining virus
  • tracing and surveillance to determine the extent of infection
  • zoning to define at-risk and disease-free areas

Destroyed birds and potentially contaminated or infected products are then disposed of in line with the standards and controls set up by the relevant state environment protection authority.

Impact on overseas trade

Australia has a significant trade in poultry and poultry products, including day-old chickens. Department of Agriculture and Water resources manage and assist exports.

The effective and timely introduction of quarantine controls around infected or at-risk properties minimises the risk of spread and any commercial impact.

Introducing chickens into other flocks in Victoria

The following restrictions apply to moving chickens into or within Victoria:

  • Chickens introduced to commercial poultry flocks in Victoria must be vaccinated for ND, unless they're below the vaccination age listed in the Newcastle Disease Vaccination Program (for example, day-old layer pullets).
  • If young chickens are introduced that are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, the person receiving the chickens is responsible for completing the vaccination program.
  • Chickens introduced to other flocks must come with a vendor declaration that states the age and number of chickens, the dates of vaccination and the types of ND vaccine that the chickens received.

You can download and use our vendor declaration form, or instead include an appropriate statement on the invoice that accompanies the chickens.

For information about moving poultry outside of Victoria, contact the relevant state authority.

Compulsory vaccination against ND

Apart from incidents in 1930 and 1932, which were managed by eradication, Australia was free from Newcastle disease until 1998. Between 1998 and 2002, a virulent ND virus of Australian origin emerged and was associated with several outbreaks of Newcastle disease in NSW and an outbreak in Victoria.

After this, to manage the risk of future outbreaks or incursions, the National Management Group for Emergency Animal Diseases supported a compulsory ND Vaccination Program (NDVP) as part of the National Newcastle Disease Management Plan developed by Animal Health Australia.

As a result, it's compulsory in Victoria for owners or managers of commercial poultry flocks to vaccinate chickens against ND in line with nationally agreed NDVP Standard Operating Procedures (NDVP SOPs). This is required by the Disease Management Plan and regulation 63 of the Livestock Disease Control Regulations 2017.

A commercial poultry flock is any managed group of more than 1000 domestic chickens. Commercial flocks include flocks of:

  • meat chickens
  • laying hens
  • chickens used for breeding purposes

ND Vaccination Program Standard Operating Procedures

All chickens in any commercial poultry flock in Victoria must be vaccinated in line with NDVP SOPs.

Meat chickens must be vaccinated in line with the NDVP SOP for meat chickens:

Laying hens and pullets vaccinated on litter must be vaccinated in line with the NDVP SOP for laying hens and pullets (vaccinated on litter):

Laying hens and pullets vaccinated in cage systems must be vaccinated in line with the NDVP SOP for laying hens and pullets (vaccinated in cages):

Meat breeders must be vaccinated in line with the NDVP SOP for meat breeders:

Layer breeders must be vaccinated in line with the NDVP SOP for layer breeders:

Exemptions might apply to Specific Pathogen Free poultry flocks or other highly biosecure commercial poultry flocks operating in line with a permit issued by the Chief Veterinary Officer at Agriculture Victoria.

Serological testing in commercial flocks

Serological testing for ND is used to detect antibodies and demonstrate the effectiveness of the vaccination program. Serological testing requirements are listed in the NDVP SOPs.

Using a different vaccination schedule

You must follow the vaccination schedule listed in the NDVP SOPs, unless otherwise approved in writing by the Chief Veterinary Officer.

The Chief Veterinary Officer can grant a permit if:

  • they believe that your proposed vaccination schedule will result in an equivalent mean antibody titre to ND in the flock
  • serological monitoring is undertaken to demonstrate that equivalence.

Samples for serological monitoring are to be collected by a vet or a person approved by the Chief Veterinary Officer in line with approved procedures for serological monitoring.

Call our Customer Service Centre on 136 186 for more information.

Keep records for 3 years

Owners of commercial poultry flocks are required to keep for 3 years:

  • vaccination records of all ND vaccine used
  • vendor declarations for introduced vaccinated chickens
  • records of serological monitoring for ND that you've undertaken in the flock.

Your vaccination records must contain information about the:

  • type of vaccine
  • date of vaccination
  • location
  • age of chickens
  • number of chickens vaccinated.

Administering vaccines in commercial flocks

Always administer the vaccine in line with the:

  • manufacturer's recommendations
  • NDVP SOPs.

For advice about how to administer vaccine, contact your vet or our animal health staff. Call our Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

How to get the vaccine

Download and complete the Application for a Permit to Purchase, Possess and Administer Newcastle Disease Vaccine and fax it to Manager Animal Standards:

Owners of commercial poultry flocks pay their own costs for vaccination.

You can get the vaccine from the following suppliers.

Bioproperties Pty Ltd

36 Charter Street
Phone: (03) 9876 0567
Fax: (03) 9876 0556

Vaccine available:

  • Vaxsafe ND Vaccine (Living) — this vaccine is currently registered for use in broilers, not for layers or meat breeders

MSD (Australia) Pty Ltd

91–105 Harpin Street
Phone: (03) 5442 5011
Fax: (03) 5442 3162

Vaccines available:

  • Nobilis ND4 live Newcastle vaccine
  • Nobilis Newcavac Inactivated Newcastle Disease Vaccine

or 'combinations':

  • Nobilis Gumboro+ND Combined Inactivated Vaccine
  • Nobilis EDS+ND Combined Inactivated Vaccine

Zoetis Animal Health

38–42 Wharf Road
Phone: 1800 022 442
Fax: 1800 775 358

Vaccines available:

  • Poulvac Newcastle V4 'V4 Strain' SPF (Living)
  • Poulvac Newcastle iK Vaccine (Inactivated)

More information

Chief Veterinary Officer
Agriculture Victoria
Phone: (03) 9217 4246

Page last updated: 19 Feb 2024