SAN DIEGO — After a case of virulent Newcastle disease was detected in San Diego last week, San Diego Zoo Global announced this week it was taking extra precautions at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  

“Working with local health officials, San Diego Zoo Global veterinarians and animal care staff have been monitoring the progress of Virulent Newcastle Disease (VND) in Southern California,” read a statement from the organization released Tuesday.  

In a press release attributed to State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones, the California Department of Food and Agriculture said the disease was detected on Aug. 30 on a property in central San Diego. Ramona residents said authorities visited properties in the area over the weekend to euthanize chickens near the location of the detection. The incident marked the first detection of VND in San Diego County since an outbreak started in May 2018. 

RELATED: Virulent Newcastle disease detected in San Diego chickens

San Diego Zoo Global said the highly contagious viral infection of poultry and other birds spreads in unpredictable ways thus putting the parks’ bird species at risk.  

“Due to a recently diagnosed case of this disease in San Diego County, heightened biosecurity measures are being instituted at both the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park,” the organization’s statement went on to say.  

The measures being taken “in an excess of caution,” according to the agency include:  

  • The closure of walkthrough aviaries at both parks 
  • Removing birds from guest access 
  • Halting free flight bird programs 
  • Restrictions on guest access to behind-the-scenes bird areas 

There was no word on when the precautionary measures would be lifted.  

According to the USDA’s web page on VND, there have been 449 confirmed locations in California infected with VND so far this year. The agency says the disease is one of the most serious poultry diseases worldwide with a nearly 100% death rate in unvaccinated chickens.   

There is no treatment or cure for VND. Since the outbreak began, CDFA has euthanized 1.2 million birds - 120,000 from residential, backyard-type coops and the rest from industrial sites.