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Pathogenic bird flu strain detected at Miyazaki poultry farm; 4,000 chickens to be culled

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

The Miyazaki Prefectural Government on Tuesday ordered the slaughter of some 4,000 chickens after officials confirmed bird flu in three birds that earlier tested positive at a chicken farm in the city of Nobeoka in the nation’s top poultry producing prefecture.

DNA tests confirmed the H5 strain of the virus at the farm after its owner reported more than 20 sudden deaths among his poultry Sunday and Monday, the agriculture ministry said.

“We confirmed at least three of the chickens tested positive for the virus,” a ministry official said. “The Miyazaki government has already started culling all the chickens at the farm.”

It was the first confirmed outbreak of bird flu at a poultry farm in the country since April. A number of wild birds found dead in the country’s southwest tested positive last month.

Authorities in Miyazaki prefecture have locked down the affected farm and nearby farms, with the movement of chickens banned while the areas are being sanitized.

The prefectural government said it has asked a separate chicken farm located inside a 3-km radius of the farm to refrain from moving its approximately 8,300 chickens. Officials have begun conducting testing for the virus there.

It also asked another farm located 10 km away not to take its roughly 6,500 birds outside a 10 km-radius zone. The prefectural government will conduct on-site inspections there to check the health of birds and confirm if appropriate epidemic prevention measures are in place.

Officials were also setting up stations to disinfect vehicles traveling on major roads around the affected farm to prevent further spread of the virus.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the farm ministry to “promptly take thorough measures for epidemic prevention,” a statement said.

The agriculture ministry regularly warns farmers about the risk of infection, citing the continued spread of the disease throughout Asia, including in neighboring South Korea.

Miyazaki Prefecture is Japan’s top producer of broiler chickens. As of Feb. 1, it had around 28.19 million birds, accounting for around 20 percent of all the chickens in the country, according to data by the agricultural ministry.

About four years ago, a massive bird flu outbreak resulted in the culling of around 1 million chickens in the prefecture.