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Chickens at a poultry farm in Izumi, Kagoshima Prefecture, have been confirmed infected with a highly pathogenic avian flu virus, the prefectural government said Wednesday.

Elsewhere, suspected cases of bird flu were detected in Aichi and Kochi prefectures, raising concern the disease may spread across the nation.

After seven out of 10 chickens tested from the Izumi poultry farm were confirmed to be infected with the H5 bird flu strain, the prefecture had all 8,600 chickens there killed.

The Kagoshima case is the third outbreak this month of highly pathogenic bird flu among chickens, following cases in the city of Miyazaki and in Shintomi, Miyazaki Prefecture, where the virus was confirmed as a highly lethal strain.

The Aichi and Kochi cases would be the fourth and the fifth. Another outbreak of a highly virulent strain of bird flu was confirmed last month at a farm in Yasugi, Shimane Prefecture.

In addition to the infections found on farms, a number of wild birds across the country have tested positive for avian flu.

Kagoshima led the nation in chicken and egg shipments in 2009, valued at ¥77.1 billion. The prefectural government has already ordered some 160 farms within a 10-km radius of the farm in question to refrain from moving their combined total of 5.22 million chickens and eggs.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry plans to dispatch parliamentary secretary Kenko Matsuki and a team of specialists to Kagoshima Prefecture to try to pin down the infection route, ministry officials said.

At a Cabinet meeting in the morning, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said, “As it is a region where poultry farms are concentrated, we must use every means to prevent the disease from further spreading.”

According to Kagoshima Prefecture, 198 birds at the farm died between Jan. 19 and Tuesday. The farm is close to a wintering place for hooded cranes where some of the birds were found infected with avian flu, the prefecture said.

After the news about the bird flu in Kagoshima broke, Miyazaki Prefecture called a meeting of its officials to discuss ways to ward off an epidemic.

At the suspected infection site ln Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, about 450 chickens died in four days through Wednesday. Four chickens at the farm tested positive for bird flu in a preliminary examination, the Aichi Prefectural Government said.

Officials said a gene test will be conducted on the chickens as part of a more detailed examination, it said.

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