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The outbreak of highly pathogenic bird flu in Japan appears to have almost subsided after it began sweeping across the country last November.

The number of chickens and ducks culled this season to prevent the further spread of infections stood at around 9.87 million as of Saturday, up drastically from the previous record of some 1.83 million birds put down in the 2010-2011 outbreak.

The bird flu virus is thought to be brought into the country by migrating birds from Eurasia and spread mainly by small animals — but also humans — that come into contact with such birds’ droppings.

The number of chickens and ducks culled this season due to an outbreak of bird flu in Japan has hit a record high 9.87 million. | KYODO
The number of chickens and ducks culled this season due to an outbreak of bird flu in Japan has hit a record high 9.87 million. | KYODO

The farm ministry’s inspection of affected chicken farms found that 90% of them had problems keeping poultry separated from wild animals.

The huge number of birds killed reflects the wide spread of bird flu through eastern Kanto and then further west, as well as Japan’s ever-larger poultry farms. The average number of hens at farms was around 67,000 in 2019, up 50% from 2009.

As mentioned in a recent Big in Japan column by Mark Schreiber, Japan residents may have noticed a significant increase in egg and chicken prices recently due to the culling of close to 10 million birds.

In February, Russia reported the world’s first cases of the H5N8 strain of avian flu in humans, though the virus doesn’t seem to be spreading between people, yet.

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