Outbreaks of highly pathogenic Newcastle disease have occurred on poultry farms in five municipalities of Girón, Floridablanca and Piedecuesta in the eastern Colombian department of Santander. As part of active surveillance measures, the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA) is visiting the 121 surrounding poultry farms, where no new outbreaks have been discovered.

Alfonso Araújo Baute, technical director of epidemiological surveillance for the ICA, said they have identified 396 nearby properties with 7,702 backyard birds (native hens, ducks, turkeys and quail) and until the last week of May, 2,997 of these animals on 112 properties had been vaccinated against Newcastle, according to the newspaper Vanguardia Liberal.

The department of Santander has 1,094 commercial poultry farms with an installed capacity of 41 million birds. For some time, the National Federation of Poultry of Colombia (Fenavi) has denounced the health risks of smuggling chickens, eggs and live birds from Venezuela — an illegal act in Columbia because of unchecked biosecurity, which endangers human health and poultry income.

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In 2008, the Congress of the Republic of Colombia declared of national interest and social health priority the creation of a program to preserve the health status by controlling and eradicating Newcastle disease from its country. In 2010, cases of high virulence Newcastle as close to the Venezuelan border as La Guajira and Atlántico departments were presented.

In contrast, in March last year, the Colombian government became the first in Latin America to grant to one of its poultry farms certification for being free from Newcastle disease. The ICA presented the award to six farms and two hatcheries of the company Avicol S.A., in the department of Tolima (central-west in Columbia, more than 650 miles from Santander).