Kagawa culling 92,000 chickens to fend off bird flu outbreak on Shikoku

Kyodo

Authorities in Kagawa Prefecture were culling about 92,000 chickens Friday after the highly pathogenic H5 strain of avian influenza was detected the previous day.

The outbreak was confirmed at a poultry farm in Sanuki after chickens tested positive during genetic tests, making it the first bird flu case affecting livestock in Japan this season. The culling operation, which started Thursday night, was to be completed within 24 hours.

The central government’s task force on the outbreak met Friday at the Prime Minister’s Office, while farm ministry officials and epidemiology experts were dispatched to the site to identify the cause.

The farm notified the Kagawa Prefectural Government of a suspected bird flu case Wednesday morning, saying 55 chickens at a poultry house had died. Kagawa is known for a thriving poultry industry that raises around 7 million chickens.

In preliminary tests, 3 of 11 chickens tested positive. Testing began Wednesday and confirmation was made on Thursday.

Any movement of poultry and eggs will be restricted to a 3-km radius from the site and farms within a 10-km radius will be banned from transporting birds and eggs from the area.

The farm has stopped shipping chickens elsewhere and the Kagawa Prefectural Government has disinfected the area.

The culling has sparked anxiety among local farmers and government workers. About 100 prefectural employees and Self-Defense Forces personnel in white protective gear were deployed for the operation.

A farmer who lives within 10 km of the site said he hoped the chickens would test negative since the inspections took longer than expected.

“I wonder how long the restrictions will last,” asked the farmer, who halted delivery of some of his chickens before the results came back.

An executive of the firm running the infected farm said, “We are doing our best to respond to the situation without causing trouble to our customers.”

The prefecture was apparently prepared and ready to respond.

“We have provided poultry farmers with disinfectants when other prefectures experienced outbreaks and conducted regular inspections,” a prefectural official said.

According to the Kagawa Poultry Breeders and Hatcheries Association, poultry farmers take extra precautions — mainly during winter — to kill germs spread by the droppings of wild chickens. Sanitary measures, including banning unofficial access to poultry houses, were also in place. But Osamu Niinobe, chairman of the association, could not hide his concern over the fate of the poultry.