MIYAZAKI (Kyodo) The bird flu epidemic may be spreading in Miyazaki Prefecture after chickens tested positive for a highly pathogenic avian flu virus Friday in two more locations.

In what could be the season’s fourth and fifth outbreak in the prefecture, chickens at poultry farms in Nobeoka and Kawaminami tested positive for bird flu in preliminary tests.

The Nobeoka poultry farm found six of its chickens had died recently, while the Kawaminami farm saw more than 400 chickens die after exhibiting specific symptoms. The local government has decided to cull about 92,000 birds at the Kawaminami farm and conduct a detailed investigation.

Meanwhile, the Miyazaki Prefectural Government finished culling all 31,000 chickens Friday at a poultry farm and an affiliated meat-processing center hit by the season’s sixth outbreak of the highly infectious avian influenza and admitted there were shortcomings in its inspections of farms.

The outbreak — the third to hit one of the nation’s largest meat-producing prefectures — was confirmed early Friday after 186 chickens shipped from the farm in the town of Tsuno were found dead Thursday at the meat-processing center in the town of Kawaminami, prefectural officials said.

Roughly 10,000 chickens kept at the farm and 21,000 others brought to the meat-processing center were culled late Thursday, after positive preliminary tests on dead birds prompted a decision to take immediate action instead of waiting for further testing.

The farm ministry plans to order Miyazaki to report the number of dead chickens at poultry farms on a daily basis.

The outbreaks began in November in Shimane Prefecture, before moving onto the capital of Miyazaki Prefecture and the town of Shintomi, followed by ones earlier this week in Kagoshima and Aichi prefectures.

Miyazaki also closed a separate meat-processing center in the town of Tsuno — one of the biggest in the prefecture, the officials said.

Meanwhile, the prefectural government was found Friday to have skipped three-quarters of the on-the-spot sanitation checks it was supposed to conduct last year, including at the farm in the city of Miyazaki where the prefecture’s first case of bird flu occurred.

Earlier, the prefectural government went on record as saying it conducted on-the-spot inspections at the farm. But actually, it allowed officials from a firm affiliated with the farm to carry out the checks on its behalf.

Miyazaki also said its own sanitary officials checked only one-fourth of the 984 poultry farms with 100 chickens or more that were supposedly inspected last year at the direction of the central government because it didn’t have enough staff.

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