After the discovery of H5N1 at a second Miyazaki Prefecture poultry farm over the weekend (see sidebar news item), the decision has been made to cull another 400,000 birds in a bid to contain the virus.
More than 160 Ground Self-Defense Force troops are reportedly being sent to Miyazaki Prefecture to assist in the eradication and containment operation, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan has ordered the formation of a special task force to halt the spread of this disease.
The stakes here are high, as the rapidly spreading bird flu outbreak in nearby South Korea demonstrates.
Already in that country, well over 30 farms have been affected, and millions of birds have been destroyed.
For blow-by-blow details of the situation in Miyazaki City, Makoto and others on FluTrackers maintain an extensive thread containing numerous local news reports and official Miyazaki prefecture statements.
Overlapping 10 km quarantine regions & more than 3 dozen disinfection points from the Miyazaki Prefecture website.
The number of chickens within these quarantine zones varies depending upon the news source. Estimates run anywhere from 1.5 million to 4 million birds.
NHK World News has a brief English video news report on this outbreak which you can view here.
As Japan battles this latest outbreak, the Hong Kong government has announced the immediate suspension of the processing of applications for the import of poultry and poultry products from Japan.
Although the possibility of human infection among the cullers and farm workers can’t be ruled out, prophylactic antivirals, protective suits, and strict decontamination procedures are being used to greatly reduce those risks.
Photo Credit - the Miyazaki Prefecture website.
For now, these outbreaks represent primarily an agricultural and economic threat.
But of course, the concern remains that given enough opportunities, the H5N1 virus could someday adapt to human physiology and present a pandemic risk.
So we watch these outbreaks with particular interest.