Kyushu farmers on alert after bird flu resurfaces

Kyodo

Poultry farmers in Miyazaki and Kagoshima prefectures are on high alert following an outbreak of avian flu at two farms in the neighboring town of Taragi, Kumamoto Prefecture, over the weekend that forced the prefecture to cull 112,000 birds.

After a massive avian flu outbreak in the prefectures three years ago, farmers took steps to prevent another epidemic but it remains to be seen if they will succeed. “We hope the situation will not be as bad as the last time,” one farmer said.

In January 2011, avian flu struck a poultry farm in Miyazaki Prefecture, then quickly spread to other regions in the prefecture, as well as to neighboring Kagoshima Prefecture. In Miyazaki Prefecture alone, more than 1 million birds at 13 farms were slaughtered that year.

A 70-year-old egg farmer from the city of Miyazaki said that the outbreak at a neighboring farm in 2011 prompted the prefectural government to restrict the transport of chickens and eggs for 20 days to contain the disease.

“There was nothing I could do but wait for the results that would confirm there was no infection,” he said. “I just thoroughly cleaned and disinfected the farm.”

It also took time for the authorities to decide how to destroy the unshipped eggs, and there was “a lot of confusion” about what to do, the farmer recalled.

To prevent the spread of the avian flu, the Miyazaki Prefectural Government decided Monday to disinfect trucks transporting chickens, just as trucks transporting pigs had been scrubbed to deal with porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED).

“As a prefecture that has experienced a bird flu epidemic, we will never again allow the spread of the disease,” a prefectural official said.

Following the flu outbreak, which spread to nine prefectures between fall 2010 and spring 2011, the agriculture ministry issued guidelines to prevent another epidemic. The avian flu virus in 2011 affected the prefectures of Chiba, Aichi, Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Shimane, Oita, Miyazaki and Kagoshima.

Based on the regulations, municipal governments ordered farmers to put up nets or other barriers to keep away wild animals that might carry diseases.

However, because the Kumamoto farms in the latest case had put up nets, experts say it may be difficult to completely guard against infections.

A broiler chicken farmer in Isa, Kagoshima Prefecture, who raises about 30,000 birds, said he cleans and disinfects the farm every day.

“Every day I spend about two hours on cleaning the trucks and three broiler houses by myself, which is physically demanding,” the farmer said. “I hope this time we will manage to prevent the further spread somehow.”

Meanwhile, in Wakayama Prefecture, officials on Tuesday began inspecting local farms to verify whether they are taking adequate protective measures. About 1.3 million birds are being raised on 79 poultry farms in the prefecture.

The inspection, which is scheduled to end this week, also includes duck and pheasant farms.

During the 2011 outbreak in the prefecture, about 120,000 birds had to be slaughtered after a chicken farm in the city of Kinokawa was hit by the virus.