• Kyodo

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An ailing crow that died after being caught last week at a house in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, has tested positive for bird flu, the prefectural government said Wednesday.

It is the nation’s third case of crow infection, following two infected dead crows that were found Friday in Kyoto Prefecture.

In the latest case, the crow was caught Friday by a police officer after residents of the house notified authorities. It died Sunday.

The house is within 30 km of a poultry farm hit by bird flu in Tanba, Kyoto Prefecture. The area is currently subject to shipping restrictions on eggs and chickens.

But an Osaka government official said, “It is difficult to think that the crow had flown from Tanba if we consider an area in which a crow normally moves.”

The crow tested negative for bird flu in an initial check Monday, but further examination Wednesday found it was infected with the virus.

The authorities will continue tests at the National Institute of Animal Health in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, to check whether the virus is highly virulent.

The police officer who caught the crow and the family that notified authorities have not fallen ill.

Random bird flu checks

The health ministry this month will start carrying out random bird flu checks on chickens before they are brought to poultry processors, ministry sources said Wednesday.

The sources added that swine flu checks will also be increased.

In addition to the goal of learning how the virus has spread in Japan, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry also hopes the inspections will prevent farmers from selling suspect chicken meat to the market, as in a recent case in Kyoto Prefecture, the sources said.

Although there have been no reports of human infection from eating chicken meat, the ministry hopes the heightened screening will ease public concerns about the safety of meat.

Japan has about 180 large poultry processors that each handle more than 300,000 birds a year.

Qualified veterinarians, who are hired or commissioned by local authorities, currently act as poultry inspectors and check the birds’ health at the processors.

Under the new checks, the inspectors will randomly select chickens for tests before they arrive at the processors, even if the birds show no signs of infection.

A preliminary bird flu test, which yields results in 15 minutes, will be conducted and any positive results will be reported to local authorities, the sources said.

The ministry plans to begin the checks by the end of this month at poultry farms that have agreed to cooperate. It will gradually expand the checks to other farms across the nation.

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