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Japan’s bird flu outbreak worsens amid mass poultry culling

Japan’s recent bird flu outbreaks have worsened as farms in two additional prefectures slaughtered a record number of birds.

10 December 2020, at 9:15am

Reuters reports that the Japanese government has ordered strict disinfection regimes on all chicken farms to stem the outbreak.

Highly pathogenic bird flu, a H5 subtype most likely brought by migrating birds from the Asian/European continent, has spread to eight of Japan's 47 prefectures.

While officials say it is not possible for people to catch avian influenza from eggs or meat of infected chickens, they are concerned about the virus making a "species jump" to humans and causing a pandemic like the novel coronavirus.

All farms in Japan have been ordered to carry out disinfection and check hygiene regimes as well as ensure that nets to keep out wild birds are installed properly, agriculture ministry officials told Reuters.

The number of birds culled, at 2.36 million before the latest two outbreaks, exceeded the previous record of 1.83 million slaughtered in the year beginning in April 2010.

The government is calling for extra vigilance due to the growing number of infections at home and in Europe, which is in the grip of an outbreak.

Japan's worst outbreak since at least 2016 started last month in Kagawa prefecture on Shikoku island.

In the latest cases, the virus was confirmed at an egg-laying farm in Kinokawa city in Wakayama prefecture, the agriculture ministry said on its website.

Three broiler farms in Oita prefecture on Kyushu island also reported outbreaks, it said.

More than 130,000 chickens at the farms in Oita and Wakayama will be slaughtered and buried.

The latest cullings mean nearly 2.5 million chickens will have been slaughtered since the outbreak began. Japan has suspended poultry imports from seven countries including Germany.

Japan had a broiler chicken population amounting to 138 million head last year, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

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