• Kyodo

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Authorities in Miyagi and Chiba prefectures began culling nearly 300,000 chickens Friday after the highly pathogenic H5 strain of bird flu was detected in dead chickens at local poultry farms.

In Japan’s latest bird flu outbreak, the Miyagi Prefectural Government plans to cull 220,000 chickens and bury them by early Monday, while the Chiba authority is in the midst of culling 68,000 chickens.

The latest outbreaks follow infections in Miyazaki and Saga in Kyushu.

The Miyagi and Chiba prefectural governments have restricted the movement of poultry and eggs within 3 km of the affected farms. They also banned poultry and eggs from being taken outside a 10-km radius.

In Miyagi, a response unit has been set up and the Self-Defense Forces have been asked to help cull the infected birds.

“The initial response is the most important thing. We are making all-out efforts in the culling operation,” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yuji Yamamoto said, adding the central government will closely collaborate with the two prefectural governments.

According to the Miyagi Prefectural Government, 96 chickens died over three days through Thursday at a poultry farm in Kurihara. Six tested positive in a preliminary screening on Thursday.

In Chiba, 118 chickens were found dead in the same three-day period at a farm in Asahi and 10 tested positive in a preliminary test.

Subsequent generic exams detected the highly virulent avian influenza.

At the poultry farm in Kurihara, prefectural officials in white protective gear conducted operations in the poultry house, while work to dig holes to bury the carcasses using heavy machinery was also in progress.

Farmers hope the culling can be completed as soon as possible to avoid damaging the reputation of the farms’ products.

“I hope everything will be fine,” said 70-year-old Fujiko Hatayama, who runs a poultry farm more than 20 km from the site of the outbreak in Kurihara. “There are only a few things we can do.”

Early in the morning, she spread lime powder on the ground to help prevent the infection from being spread further.

Miyagi prefectural employees began gathering for the culling late Thursday night.

“It was the first time in Miyagi Prefecture that bird flu has been detected in livestock, but we didn’t experience any problems because we conducted drills last year,” said Koji Abe, a 52-year-old employee of the Miyagi Prefectural Government.

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