Authorities have determined that the virulent H5 family of the bird flu virus has killed dozens of chickens at a western Japanese farm, the latest in a series of outbreaks in the country's poultry, officials said yesterday.
It was still unclear whether the virus was the deadly H5N1 type that is also dangerous to humans, an Agriculture Ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.
The latest outbreak occurred at a farm in the town of Takahashi in Okayama Prefecture, where at least 30 chickens died last week.
The farm was being sterilized, while other farms in a 10km radius have been barred from shipping chickens and eggs, the ministry official said. Authorities planned to start culling all 12,000 birds at the farm as early as today.
Takahashi is about 560km west of Tokyo.
Thousands of chickens were killed at poultry farms in southern Miyazaki Prefecture following two H5N1 bird flu outbreaks in two separate towns there earlier this month.
So far, no links have been found in the three outbreaks -- however, experts are still investigating, the ministry official said.
Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka said the latest outbreak was probably not related to the Miyazaki outbreaks.
He was speaking at a task force meeting at the ministry yesterday morning, and did not elaborate.
The H5N1 virus has prompted the slaughter of millions of birds across Asia since late 2003, and caused the deaths of at least 163 people worldwide, WHO statistics showed.
Japan has confirmed only one human H5N1 infection and no human deaths.
The bird flu virus remains hard for humans to catch, but international experts fear it may mutate into a form that could spread easily among people and possibly kill millions around the world.
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