The winter’s first bird flu outbreak in Japan has been reported by the country’s agriculture ministry, according to a Reuters report.
The ministry announced on Wednesday, Jan. 10, that a suspected case of bird flu has been reported in Kagawa prefecture, western Japan.
If confirmed, this marks Japan’s first bird flu outbreak in poultry this winter.
According to Reuters, the ministry said that some chickens at a farm in the area of Sanuki city in Kagawa tested positive in a preliminary examination on Wednesday for avian influenza, a highly pathogenic strain of the virus.
There are 100,000 chickens at the farm and all may be ordered culled.
A decision on whether to proceed with the cull will be based on the results of genetic tests expected later on Wednesday.
55 chickens had been found dead at the farm, and the authorities were notified of a suspected bird flu outbreak on the morning of Jan. 10.
Japan’s last outbreak of bird flu took place in March 2017.
Between November 2016 and March 2017, a total of 1.67 million chickens were culled due to the H5N6 strain of bird flu, according to the ministry, Reuters reported.
The risk to humans of contracting the H5N6 bird flu virus is very low, according to WHO.
The first reported case of H5N6 virus in humans was in China in May 2014. A 49-year-old man with a poultry farm in Sichuan Province died from severe pneumonia caused by the virus. WHO said he was likely infected by sick birds on his farm.
Some strains of avian influenza can infect humans, usually in cases where they were exposed to infected birds. While some infections are fatal, many are mild and even subclinical in humans, says WHO.
Patients who are infected can show symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, eye infections, and in worse cases, pneumonia, and respiratory diseases, and other severe complications.
To most people the risk of contracting bird flu is very low, and it won’t occur if poultry and eggs are properly handled.
Juliet Song contributed to this article.