Japan started culling more than 300,000 chickens and ducks after a highly contagious form of bird flu was found in two locations in the north of the country, Kyodo news reported on Tuesday. It is the first time in two years that bird flu has been detected in poultry farms in Japan, Jiji news service said.
In Niigata prefecture north of Tokyo, local authorities started culling about 310,000 chickens at a farm in the village of Sekikawa after 40 birds were found dead, Kyodo news reported.
Further north in the prefecture of Aomori, about 16,5000 ducks were being culled after some tested positive for H5 bird flu, Kyodo reported without being more specific on the strain.
A severe strain of H5N8 bird flu has hit several countries in Europe and led to the culling of thousands of poultry after being detected in wild ducks in Northern France. In recent weeks there have also been outbreaks in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Romania and Germany. Dutch authorities destroyed about 190,000 ducks on Saturday at six farms following an avian flu outbreak.
Farmers located in humid regions, where the risk of transmission is higher, are advised by health authorities to keep poultry flocks indoors or apply safety nets preventing contact with wild birds.
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The H5N8 virus has never been detected in humans but it led to the culling of millions of farm birds in Asia, mainly South Korea, in 2014 before spreading to Europe. The World Organization for Animal Health had warned in an interview with Reuters mid-November that more outbreaks of H5N8 were likely in Europe as wild birds believed to transmit the virus migrate southward.