• Kyodo

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Local authorities in Kagawa Prefecture began culling around 330,000 chickens Thursday after an outbreak of a highly pathogenic bird flu was confirmed at a chicken farm for the first time in nearly three years in the country.

The prefectural government instructed chicken farms within a 3-kilometer radius of the infected site in the city of Mitoyo not to move any poultry or eggs, and is checking whether infections have occurred at other locations.

Farms within a 10-km radius are banned from transporting birds and eggs out of the area. The infected farm reported Wednesday that a total of 3,800 chickens had died over a four-day period.

The steps affect a total of some 4.62 million chickens at 115 farms within the 10-km radius, but as of Thursday morning there had been no reports of other mass poultry deaths in the zone, according to the prefectural government.

It is expected to take around 10 days to complete the culling operation and Kagawa Prefectural Government has requested the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces to help with the mission, the authority said.

"I'm in trouble because I can't ship eggs unless (my chickens) are confirmed negative in tests," said a man in his 60s who runs a poultry farm within the 3-km zone.

"We just have to do what we can, by following instructions (from local authorities)," said another poultry farmer.

Kagawa Gov. Keizo Hamada told reporters that poultry farming is a key industry in the region. "We must complete the disinfection measures so the infection won't expand further," he said.

The last bird flu outbreak in Japan, in January 2018, also occurred in Kagawa Prefecture, which is located on the island of Shikoku. The farm ministry said Japan would suspend the export of chickens and eggs for the time being.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga instructed Cabinet members to liaise closely on taking preventive steps and to share information swiftly, while asking poultry farmers to stay alert, according to the prime minister's office.

"The government will work as one and take thorough measures to prevent the spread of infections," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato at a Cabinet meeting on the outbreak.

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