Among the consequences of the epidemic of highly pathogenic avian influenza which affected Italy between 1999 and 2000 was an epidemic of Newcastle disease in northern and central Italy. It affected industrially reared poultry, dealer flocks and backyard flocks, with a total of 254 outbreaks notified up to December 31, 2000. Virological investigations yielded virulent isolates of Newcastle disease virus, which produced intracerebral pathogenicity indices ranging from 1.6 to 2.0 and which, on the basis of their monoclonal antibody binding patterns, could be classified as belonging to group Cl. The clinical, gross and microscopical findings were typical of Newcastle disease, and different avian species were susceptible to different degrees. Chickens and guinea fowl appeared to be the most susceptible, followed by pheasants, turkeys and ostriches. The epidemiological inquiry highlighted the crucial role of a broiler hatchery in initiating the epidemic, and of dealers in perpetuating it. The control measures imposed by Directive 92/66/EEC are discussed with reference to the outbreaks in backyard flocks.
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