Newcastle disease: how to spot and report it

How to spot Newcastle disease, what to do if you suspect it and measures to prevent its spread.

Newcastle disease affects chickens and other captive and wild birds.

Humans aren’t normally affected, but people in direct contact with infected birds may develop a very short-term eye infection, which passes without treatment.

The disease was last confirmed in Great Britain in 2006.

Newcastle disease is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect it you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

Latest situation

If you keep poultry or birds, you must keep a close watch for, and report, any signs of Newcastle disease.

There’s now a low risk of the disease in the UK. During summer 2018, there were cases reported in Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Sweden. You can read our assessment of the risk.

How to spot Newcastle disease

As the disease develops affected birds may show some of the following signs:

  • respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
  • nervous signs characterised by tremors and paralysis and twisting of the neck
  • unusually watery faeces (diarrhoea) that are yellowish-green in colour
  • depression
  • lack of appetite

Affected hens may also suddenly produce fewer eggs. Eggs that are laid may be soft-shelled.

The disease may lead to intense clinical signs, with a sudden onset leading to likely death. Or it may have a lesser affect, with breathing problems and lower egg production the only detectable clinical signs.

How Newcastle disease is spread

The disease is spread by direct contact with bodily fluids of infected birds, especially their faeces.

It can also be spread indirectly through people and objects that have been in contact with infected birds, or their excretions (such as faeces). Objects that can carry the disease include:

  • vehicles
  • equipment
  • clothing
  • water and feed

The disease can spread from wild to kept birds. Pigeons may carry pigeon paramyxovirus, which can cause Newcastle disease in kept birds.

Preventing and controlling Newcastle disease

You can help prevent the disease by:

If you report suspicion of Newcastle disease, APHA vets will investigate.

If the disease is confirmed, the outbreak will be controlled in line with the contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases and the control strategy for notifiable avian diseases will be implemented.

Further information on prevention and control

Controls to prevent disease

What happens when a notifiable disease is suspected or confirmed

Legislation on Newcastle disease

Newcastle disease is covered by the Diseases of Poultry (England) Order 2003.

Published 26 August 2014
Last updated 13 November 2018 + show all updates
  1. Changed the level of risk for the disease from medium to low in current situation.

  2. Contact details for reporting a notifiable disease updated.

  3. We have added information about the risk, with recent cases in Europe.

  4. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

  5. First published.