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Kumamoto bird flu strain ID’d as H5N8, new to Japan

Kyodo

The avian influenza found in chickens in Kumamoto Prefecture has been identified as the H5N8 virus, the agriculture ministry said Thursday.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said it found H5N8 in samples from birds at a farm in Kumamoto where a surge in chicken deaths set off the culling Sunday and Monday of some 112,000 birds.

This is the first discovery of the H5N8 virus in Japan. Cases of suspected H5N8 bird infections have been reported since January in South Korea.

The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, which analyzed the samples, will carry out further testing to determine how closely related the virus is to the one found in South Korea.

The ministry said the danger of the virus spreading is low, as the pathogens have been contained on site.

Toshihiro Ito, head of the ministry’s poultry disease subcommittee, said it is possible the virus was carried from South Korea by migratory birds.

“We now need to do further tests to examine the route of infection,” said Ito, also a professor at Tottori University’s Avian Zoonosis Research Center.