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Preliminary tests on samples from two wild crows found dead in Kyoto Prefecture, where bird flu has broken out, have tested positive for the virus, prefectural officials said Sunday.

Samples of the crows were to undergo further testing by the National Institute of Animal Health in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Should additional tests show that it is a highly contagious strain of the virus, it would be the first time for it to be found in wild birds in Japan.

The officials said the birds were among four crows found dead Friday.

Two were found on the premises of Asada Nosan Funai Farm in the town of Tanba, where thousands of chickens had died before the disease was reported and confirmed in late February.

The others were found some 8 to 9 km away, in the nearby township of Sonobe.

Experts said it is highly likely the crows were infected with the virus near the afflicted chicken farms in Tanba, and they do not believe the crows transmitted the virus to the chickens.

A highly contagious strain of avian influenza was found in chickens at the Funai farm on Feb. 27. Chickens kept at another farm some 5 km away have also tested positive for the virus.

Prefectural officials said they would discuss with experts whether, given the latest discovery, to expand the area from which shipments of chickens and eggs have been banned.

Some 660 additional Ground Self-Defense Force troops joined cleanup work Sunday at the two farms.

The GSDF’s Third Division has had 160 troops working at the Funai farm and the second farm, which is operated by a local farmer, since Thursday.

The force boosted its deployment to help dig pits to bury the chickens at the request of the Kyoto Prefectural Government.

The two farms had a combined 270,000 chickens before being hit by bird flu, which re-emerged for the first time in 79 years in Japan in January.

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