KAGOSHIMA (Kyodo) Chickens at a poultry farm in Izumi, Kagoshima Prefecture, tested positive for bird flu in a preliminary examination, the prefecture said Tuesday, following outbreaks of a highly lethal strain of avian influenza in Miyazaki Prefecture.

The Kagoshima farm raises some 8,600 chickens for eggs. There are around 160 poultry farms within a 10-km radius of the farm, accounting for some 5.25 million birds.

Local authorities plan to examine the chickens more closely.

The Environment Ministry meanwhile said it began research Tuesday to see if infections with the highly lethal strain have spread in Miyazaki.

Researchers started collecting droppings of wild birds in areas within 10 km of two poultry farms in the city of Miyazaki and the town of Shintomi where outbreaks of the highly virulent flu have been confirmed since last week.

Three researchers from the Japan Wildlife Research Center began the study at a site along the Hitotsuse River, which stretches between Miyazaki and Shintomi, on behalf of the ministry.

“We will check if infections might have spread in view of the possibility that migratory birds may have acted as intermediaries in transmitting the virus” to chickens at the farms, said Masahide Kubota, one of the researchers.

The examination was prompted by successive detections of the highly virulent strain in the two municipalities.

The researchers will collect wild bird droppings at six to seven locations through Wednesday, and it will take two to three weeks before the laboratory results are available, the ministry officials said.

The ministry raised the alert level Monday to its highest degree to strengthen surveillance of wild birds inhabiting the area within 10 km of the two farms.

Meanwhile, agriculture minister Michihiko Kano said the government plans to complete a cull of some 410,000 chickens at the Shintomi poultry farm by Thursday.

“We are proceeding with (the cull) by consulting with the prefectural government,” he said at a news conference.

Some 150 Ground Self-Defense Force personnel joined the government effort to cull the chickens at the Shintomi farm.

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