The agriculture ministry announced Sunday a suspected outbreak of bird flu that killed at least 1,100 chickens at a farm in Taragi, Kumamoto Prefecture, prompting the prefectural government to order the culling of 112,000 chickens kept there and at another nearby farm run by the same operator.
The ministry also ordered a ban on the shipping or moving of chickens and their eggs within a the 3-km radius of the two farms, and requested that reporters not approach the farms to prevent further spread of the suspected H5-type avian influenza outbreak.
In an apparent bid to ease public concerns, government officials noted in a statement that no cases of bird-to-human bird flu infection through eating chicken meat or eggs have been found in Japan.
According to the Kumamoto prefecutral government, the farmer, whose name is being withheld, first discovered 70 chickens dead on Friday, and another 200 on Saturday.
The farmer then reported the events to a local office of the prefectural government, which conducted a preliminary bird flu test Saturday on five live chickens and another five dead ones that found one live chicken and five dead chickens were positive for the H5-type of bird flu.
The prefectural government also conducted a DNA test Sunday on those samples that found two of the five dead birds positive for the same strain of the virus, prompting the central government to hold a Cabinet meeting and issue a warning to the public.
If confirmed, this would be the first bird flu outbreak in the country since one in the city of Chiba in March 2011, and the first-ever case at a chicken farm in Kumamoto Prefecture.