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Bird flu is so bad that Japan’s running out of land to bury chickens

Bird flu is so bad that Japan’s running out of land to bury chickens
Chickens at a poultry farm in Triang, Pahang, Malaysia, on Saturday, 25 February 2023. The number of virus cases in wild and domesticated birds worldwide has surged to record levels, with a rising number of mammals and a handful of people also being infected. (Photo: Samsul Said/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Japan’s worst-ever bird flu outbreak has decimated its poultry flocks and sent egg prices soaring. Now there’s a lack of space to bury dead chickens.

More than 17 million birds have been killed nationwide this season. The disposal of carcasses must be done properly to prevent spreading the virus or contaminating water supplies. Local governments and farmers say there’s a shortage of suitable land to bury them, national broadcaster NHK reported.

Japan’s case highlights the need for countries to review how they deal with avian influenza, especially as record-breaking death tolls due to the virus are becoming a norm around the world. While outbreaks have occurred mainly in Europe, the US and Asia, the disease has spread further to South America in recent months, with Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia reporting their first cases.

This is roiling global meat and egg supplies at a time of heightened inflation fears. The outbreak in Japan has forced companies including McDonald’s and 7-Eleven to suspend the sale of egg-related items or increase their prices. 

Farmers and authorities usually develop pre-incident plans to manage wastes generated during a bird flu outbreak, including carcasses, manure and personal protective equipment. But the number of chickens to be disposed of has increased beyond their expectations, NHK said. Some regions are burning the dead chickens if they can get hold of incineration facilities. BM/DM

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