• The Associated Press

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Japan banned poultry imports from the Netherlands on Wednesday following the European country’s discovery of two suspected bird flu cases.

The ban was imposed immediately after Dutch officials notified Japan of possible avian influenza outbreaks on two farms — one last Friday and the other on Monday, said Hiroaki Ogura, an Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry spokesman.

Japan’s ban on poultry meat imports now extends to 15 countries where avian flu has struck, including the United States and Canada.

In 2002, Japan imported about 430,000 tons of chicks but no poultry meat or products from the Netherlands. Japan had temporarily banned Dutch poultry imports between March and August last year because of a bird flu case there.

Bird flu hit Japan in January for the first time in 79 years.

It has infected chickens at three farms and several wild crows in the surrounding area, but no case of human transmission has been reported in Japan.

The flu has ravaged flocks in other parts of Asia and spread to humans in Thailand and Vietnam, killing 23 people and prompting the cull of about 100 million chickens across the region.

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