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NAGOYA (Kyodo) Chickens at a poultry farm in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, have tested positive for avian influenza, the prefectural government said Thursday, confirming the fifth outbreak this winter.

Authorities started slaughtering all 150,000 chickens at the farm and banned transport of the estimated 2.6 million chickens and eggs at the 44 poultry farms within 10 km of it, including part of neighboring Kosai, Shizuoka Prefecture.

Officials are now seeking land to bury the carcasses.

The Aichi Prefectural Government said earlier in the day that the chickens had tested negative for bird flu but revised that finding after data from the National Institute of Animal Health showed they were infected with a highly virulent H5 strain, according to prefectural officials.

About 800 birds died between Sunday and Wednesday at the chicken farm, and four out of a sample of five birds tested positive, the prefectural government said. The poultry house where the dead birds were found had no windows, denying easy access to wild birds.

The outbreak raised serious concerns among local poultry farmers.

“If the outbreak continues, it will lead some farmers to pull out of the business due to fears for their future,” said a senior official in Toyohashi’s chicken farm cooperative.

“We want the central government to consider lifting the ban on use of vaccines currently prohibited in Japan,” the 75-year-old official said.

Aichi is a major grower of egg-producing hens. As of February 2009, the prefecture had roughly 7.45 million chickens, the third most in the country.

Prior to the Aichi case, bird flu was confirmed at poultry farms in Shimane, Miyazaki and Kagoshima prefectures, while the virus has been detected in wild birds at several sites.

At a farm in Shintomi, Miyazaki Prefecture, local authorities finished killing 410,000 chickens at 12 farm structures Thursday afternoon, the prefecture said.

The avian flu virus was confirmed Monday at those farms.

In the same afternoon, the central government convened an emergency meeting to discuss how to deal with the outbreaks.

“If it is highly likely that wild birds are spreading the flu virus, we have to order poultry farms to implement thorough preventive measures so their birds will not contract the flu from wild birds,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan told his ministers.

The agriculture ministry also dispatched officials to Aichi Prefecture to start investigating the cause.

In Toyohashi, the avian flu virus was detected at quail farms in 2009, prompting the prefectural government to slaughter 1.6 million quails.

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