Japan kills record 10 million chickens after bird flu outbreaks

Japan kills record 10 million chickens after bird flu outbreaks
Chickens are buried in bags after being killed at a farm where bird flu was detected, Kawaminami, Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan, December 20, 2016, credit: Kyodo via Reuters

Japan killed in total more than 10 million chickens after bird flu outbreaks in the current infection season that started in October 2022. On Tuesday, an agriculture ministry official said that the number is a new record of killed animals due to bird flu.

The latest bird flu case was detected at a chicken farm in Miyazaki in southwestern Japan. The total number of chickens who were killed in the current season reached 10.08 million, an increase from the 9.87 million chickens killed in the November 2020 to March 2021 season.

The number of outbreaks has reached 57, and the number of prefectures impacted rose to 23, the highest it’s ever been, the ministry official, who oversees animal health, said.

“Avian flu is spreading around the world, including Europe and the United States, and the amount of (bird flu) virus that comes to Japan with migratory birds has been high this season,” the official said.

“Outbreaks in wild birds have been confirmed more frequently than usual, and experts have warned that the concentration of the virus in the environment is very high nationwide,” Agriculture Minister Tetsuro Nomura said in a statement.

Bird flu is mainly a disease affecting birds but can also infect humans and other animals who come in close contact with infected birds or their faeces. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies the H5N1 and the H7N9 subtypes of bird flu as highly pathogenic and possibly fatal in humans.

When bird flu is detected at a farm, governments order to destroy all farm animals, which means killing them and burying or burning their bodies. The current spread of the H5N1 type of bird flu has resulted in the destruction of tens of millions of chickens, ducks, turkeys and other birds worldwide.

Farming animals is not sustainable
Virologist Thijs Kuiken told Dutch media that “the intensive way of raising animals, with a huge number of animals huddled together in one spot, is no longer sustainable for many reasons.”

He said that the highly pathogenic H5N1 type of bird flu, which has been spreading worldwide, emerged due to intensive bird farming: “Normally, wild birds only carry the low-pathogenic variant. In intensive chicken farming, this mild flu mutated into a serious variant.” 

He added that there is no miracle cure to get rid of bird flu. Vaccination could be a short-term solution for farm birds but not for wild birds. “Only if we completely adapt the poultry industry system can we eliminate it (bird flu) in the long run.”


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