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Newcastle disease outbreak affecting California fairs

Posted at 6:15 PM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 22:46:26-05

One of the most serious poultry diseases has prompted the Santa Barbara County Fair to cancel the poultry show scheduled for this summer.

However, the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles says its poultry show will go on.

The USDA has confirmed 373 cases of Newcastle disease in California since May 2018. It’s popped up in four counties. The closest – Ventura County – has reported one case.

4-H member Samantha Hoffman has participated in the poultry show at the Santa Barbara County Fair for the past couple of years.

“I got third place in market for my first year and then I got 8th place in market for that year,” Hoffman said.

But this July, the show won’t be happening due to the state outbreak of Newcastle disease in poultry.

“We’re really saddened by it because the livestock exhibition is a huge part of the Santa Barbara County Fair; however, ultimately, the board decided that it would be best to take swift and proactive action and cancel the show for the benefit of the community,” said Shelly Cone, Santa Maria Fairpark representative.

Newcastle is a highly contagious respiratory disease in poultry that spreads quickly.

The USDA says people working directly with sick birds can become infected with mild symptoms like conjunctivitis.

“I wasn’t that surprised,” Hoffman said of the show being canceled. “I was actually waiting for them to say that it was because a lot of our shows that I go to was canceled, like the Fresno show.”

A handful of Southern California poultry shows have also decided to cancel their competitions.

The Santa Barbara County Fair says the California State Veterinarian recommended the move and that they decided to do it now since this is around the time youth buy their poultry.

Some buy them from Farm Supply.

“Newcastle disease is something we’ve taken very seriously,” said Diana Melero, Farm Supply Marketing Coordinator. “At this time, the most important thing is the safety and the wellbeing of our community, the animals and our agriculture industry.”

The Mid-State Fair says their show will go on and the outbreak may even be over by the time the fair rolls around.

“We will work with the Department of Food and Agriculture to continue to monitor where the disease is in the state but it hasn’t reached our county and it’s not necessarily anticipated to reach our county,” said Michael Bradley, California Mid-State Fair CEO.

Regardless, they have safeguards in place.

“There is a requirement that we have a poultry inspector so every bird is looked at, inspected and if the animal is healthy, it’s allowed in the show,” Bradley said.

Hoffman is looking forward to future shows.

“It really helps with your confidence and motivation,” Hoffman concluded.

More than 60,000 birds have reportedly been euthanized since the outbreak started in May of 2018.

The disease is spread when healthy birds come into contact with the bodily fluids of sick birds.

For humans, washing hands is key.

According to the USDA, no human cases of Newcastle disease have ever occurred as a result of eating poultry products.

The health departments in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties confirm there have been no cases of the disease reported in this area this year.