Kagoshima crane died of highly virulent H5N1

Kyodo

The Environment Ministry said Wednesday the highly infectious H5N1 strain of avian influenza found in a hooded crane in Izumi plain, Kagoshima Prefecture, was confirmed to be very lethal, a day after the prefectural government detected the flu in the bird’s carcass.

The DNA structure of the virus was quite similar to the strains found in the droppings of a wild duck in Wakkanai, Hokkaido, in October, and in a weakened young tundra swan found at a residence in Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, in November, according to the ministry.

Earlier Wednesday, experts from the government checked local poultry farms.

Of about 160 farms within a 10-km radius of the Izumi plain, which sees the nation’s largest winter congregation of cranes, some 50 have already been confirmed free of infection by a team of roughly 40 experts, officials said.

Kagoshima was top among the 47 prefectures in the production of broiler chickens in 2009 — worth about ¥50.5 billion — and third in eggs at ¥24.6 billion, according to data at the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.

Many of the 28 million chickens being raised in the prefecture are bred in its northwestern region, where the affected plain is located, prompting the prefectural government to take steps to prevent the virus spreading to poultry.

“Many migratory birds come to Izumi. . . . As the avian influenza spread, I worried about when it would come to this place,” said an area chicken rancher. He said he had been sterilizing his farm as usual since shipping all of his 100,000 chickens last Friday.

Another rancher said she was confident her property was safe thanks to regular sterilizations and fences that were erected to keep out wild birds. But she worried that harmful rumors might.