• Kyodo

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The Kyoto Prefectural Government estimates it will need more than 600 million yen to cover costs related to the bird flu outbreak, prefectural officials said Tuesday.

An official said Kyoto will ask the national government for financial support.

“We are very much cash-strapped amid the big reductions in central government subsidies to local governments,” he said.

The figure, including disinfection costs and subsidies to poultry farmers, is more than double that needed by Yamaguchi Prefecture to cover bird flu expenses in January.

Two poultry farms in Tanba, Kyoto Prefecture, have been infected by avian influenza, and 240,000 chickens on the two farms were destroyed.

Poultry farms in Kyoto are also barred from shipping chickens and eggs for a longer period of time than farmers in Yamaguchi because of a suspected case of secondary infection in Kyoto.

Kyoto officials said most of the subsidies to poultry farmers will come from a supplementary budget being drawn up by the prefecture.

About 250 million yen was spent when bird flu broke out in Yamaguchi in January, with the national government covering 140 million yen of the cost.

Local officials said Kyoto may spend more than 600 million yen to cover bird flu-related expenses, depending on the circumstances.

They said it remains unclear when they can lift restrictions on chicken and egg transport on the roughly 850 poultry farms in the prefecture.

South Korea probe

The Environment Ministry will send officials to South Korea on Thursday to gather information on migratory birds, which are suspected of spreading avian flu.

They will gather information on travel routes and types of migratory birds flying from South Korea to Japan, and on bird flu infections among wild birds in South Korea, ministry officials said Tuesday.

The team members plan to meet South Korean government officials and researchers and visit sites hit by the outbreak, which first surfaced in the country last year, they said.

Officials of the ministry’s wildlife conservation office will stay four days and those from the Japan Wildlife Research Center will stay seven.

An estimated 280 kinds of migratory birds fly between Japan and South Korea, according to the ministry.

The ministry said 11 types of birds have been confirmed to travel from Japan to South Korea, but there has been no research on what route they take to get back.

On Monday, the government convened an urgent meeting of senior officials in charge of bird flu issues and decided to enhance a study of wild birds following the discovery of two dead crows infected with the virus, officials said. Before the crows were found, Japan’s only victims of the outbreak had been chickens.

On Sunday, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said two dead crows found in Kyoto Prefecture tested positive for the avian influenza virus. One of the two was found at Asada Nosan Funai Farm in Tanba and the other in front of a home in nearby Sonobe.

The officials at the meeting mulled ways to prevent crows and other wild birds from coming into contact with pet birds on verandas and other outdoor locations at people’s homes.

Following the meeting, working-level officials from various ministries discussed measures to counteract the spread of bird flu, they said.

An Environment Ministry official told the working-level forum, “Our ministry has started a study of wild birds through such means as collecting crow droppings.”

They also discussed ways to pre-empt unfounded rumors and keep consumer demand for chicken and eggs up despite the proliferation of bird flu.

Japan’s first case of bird flu in 79 years hit a poultry farm in Yamaguchi Prefecture in January, and the second affected bantam chickens kept as pets in Oita Prefecture in February. Both cases were found to involve the highly contagious H5N1 strain.

The Funai farm, which failed to alert authorities even though thousands of its chickens died over the space of a week, was the third site to be hit by bird flu. The family-run Takada farm in the same town subsequently suffered an outbreak.

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