Newcastle disease virus (NDV), a member of the genus Avulavirus of the family Paramyxoviridae, is the causative agent of Newcastle disease (ND), a highly contagious disease that affects many species of birds and which frequently causes significant economic losses to the poultry industry worldwide. Virulent NDV (vNDV) is exotic in poultry in the United States; however, the virus has been frequently associated with outbreaks of ND in cormorants, which poses a significant threat to poultry species. Here, we present the characterization of 13 NDV isolates obtained from outbreaks of ND affecting cormorants and gulls in the states of Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Maryland in 2010. All 2010 isolates are closely related to the viruses that caused the ND outbreaks in Minnesota in 2008, following the new evolutionary trend observed in cormorant NDV isolates since 2005. Similar to the results obtained with the 2008 isolates, the standard United States Department of Agriculture F-gene real-time reverse-transcription PCR (RRT-PCR) assay failed to detect the 2010 cormorant viruses, whereas all viruses were detected by a cormorant-specific F-gene RRT-PCR assay. Notably, NDV-positive gulls were captured on the eastern shore of Maryland, which represents a significant geographic expansion of the virus since its emergence in North America. This is the first report of vNDV originating from cormorants isolated from wild birds in Maryland and, notably, the first time that genotype V vNDV has been isolated from multiple wild bird species in the United States. These findings highlight the need for constant epidemiologic surveillance for NDV in wild bird populations and for consistent biosecurity measures to prevent the introduction of the agent into domestic poultry flocks.
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Vol. 56 • No. 1