KYOTO – Avian flu has turned up in preliminary tests at a poultry farm in Tanba, Kyoto Prefecture, that has seen some 28,000 of its chickens die over the past week but neglected to alert authorities to the possibility of an outbreak of the disease sweeping Asia.
Authorities said Friday that final confirmation would not come until early next week.
If confirmed, it would be the third such case in Japan since an outbreak at a chicken farm in Yamaguchi Prefecture in mid-January. Until then, no case of bird flu had been reported in Japan since 1925.
The case of a dead chicken found at an elementary school in Nagano Prefecture was confirmed Friday not to be a case of bird flu.
The Tanba farm raises about 200,000 chickens for their eggs. It was quoted by the Kyoto Prefectural Government as saying about 1,000 birds have been dying every day since Feb. 20.
Health officials were dismayed that the farm did not report the deaths to authorities, despite repeated cautions and requests to notify relevant parties of anything out of the ordinary given the recent spread of the disease across Asia.
Health officials in Kyoto Prefecture said they contacted the farm after receiving an anonymous phone call Thursday saying chickens were dying every day at there.
“Perhaps the farm’s operator thought it was because of the feed, or some other disease — we can’t know for sure until we get more details,” an official of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said. “But the farm still should have sought some advice or information, since everyone is making such a fuss (over bird flu) these days.”
Poultry sanitation officers inspected the farm, Asada Nosan Funai Farm, before dawn Friday. The first round of tests at the farm showed negative results, but three dead chickens and two live ones tested positive for the bird flu virus in a second set of tests.
The 41-year-old owner of the farm said he thought the birds had enteritis.
“I don’t know what I should do,” the man told reporters who had flocked to his farm after hearing the news.
He said about 1,000 birds had died every day since he stopped giving them feed Feb. 20 to encourage them to molt and produce eggs of better quality.
He said the company that runs the farm conducted autopsies on some of the dead birds and found signs of enteritis.
“I was planning to wait a little longer and notify (authorities) this morning,” he claimed, “but it seems someone at the company called” health officials.
Samples taken from the dead birds have been sent to the National Institute of Animal Health in the city of Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, for extensive testing. The prefectural government has asked the farm to voluntarily refrain from moving eggs collected there, pending final confirmation.
The farm said some of the dead chickens had been mixed with bird droppings, dried under high heat, fermented and shipped as fertilizer. And about 160,000 eggs from the farm had been shipped daily to supermarkets and other stores in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures through Thursday.
Prefectural officials said they were checking the distribution routes of these products and have notified their counterparts in the two prefectures. Health experts reckoned the virus would probably die if the birds had been heat-treated when manufacturing fertilizer.
Prefectural officials visited the farm Feb. 19 to warn farmers about bird flu after it began hitting other prefectures. The farm reported no abnormalities at the time.