Bird flu cases in Japan are rising at a faster pace than two years ago when a record-high number of chickens was culled due to the disease, prompting the government to urge farmers and local governments to take thorough preventive steps.

As of Wednesday, a total of 27 cases of avian flu had been confirmed across 16 prefectures in Japan, leading to the killing of over 4 million chickens, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Two seasons ago, between November 2020 and March 2021, 52 flu cases were confirmed in 18 prefectures, resulting in the culling of roughly 9.9 million chickens, a record number for one season.

"I would like (local authorities and livestock farmers) to take preventive measures under the assumption that anywhere around chicken houses is contaminated," agriculture minister Tetsuro Nomura said at a ministry meeting.

This season's first case of bird flu was confirmed in October, with the highly deadly H5N1 strain detected from samples of the infected chickens.

As bird flu spreads globally, it is believed that it has been brought into Japan by migratory birds.

"At (chicken) farms where flu cases were detected, there were many cases in which basic sanitation measures were not taken," Nomura said, requesting that municipalities and livestock farmers disinfect the premises and prevent the entry of wild animals.