OITA – The Environment Ministry and the Oita Prefectural Government launched an ecological study of migratory birds Tuesday to determine whether they brought in avian influenza.
Experts said the bird flu virus found earlier this month in Oita and in January in nearby Yamaguchi Prefecture are believed to have derived from the same “ancestor” virus, and that the two viruses are not the same types as those found in other parts of Asia, including Vietnam and Hong Kong.
However, they also said it is difficult to imagine that the virus spread directly from Yamaguchi to Oita. It is necessary to look into the possibility of the virus being brought in from overseas, including the role of migratory birds, the experts said.
The ministry said the ecological research is part of preparations for full-fledged studies in March, in which experts will check for bird flu virus in droppings or blood samples of water birds, migratory or nonmigratory.
The ministry will join hands with the Japan Wildlife Research Center, an affiliated institute in Tokyo, and with Tottori University to inspect the droppings and blood samples of waterfowl, including geese and ducks, in the area, ministry officials said.
From early in the morning, 10 people, including ministry staff, started observing migratory and wild birds in nine locations within a 10-km radius of a house in the town of Kokonoe where the bird flu infection was confirmed.
The observers spotted around 100 wigeons, a type of duck known to migrate from Siberia, in a lake in Kokonoe.
The prefectural government started separate inspections Tuesday to see if there are more bird flu infections, with an eye to lifting a transport ban on chickens and eggs in the area around the outbreak site if no new infections are found.
The Oita government started taking sample chickens from within a 30-km radius of the site.
Around 1,300 chickens will be picked out as samples from about 1.4 million raised in local poultry farms or kept at schools, for testing of the virus.
The results of the tests will be made known in about a week.