Some 320,000 chickens are to be culled. Photo: IROZ GAIZKA / AFP

Japan has begun slaughtering more than 330,000 farm birds in an attempt to contain its first outbreaks of a highly contagious strain of avian flu in nearly two years, the government said on Tuesday.

Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga announced that the planned cull of some 16,500 ducks at a farm in the northern prefecture of Aomori and nearly 320,000 chickens at a farm in central Niigata prefecture had started.

Authorities also banned the transport of poultry and poultry products in areas close to the farms affected by the H5 strain, and have begun sterilizing main roads leading to them.

“There are fears that it could occur in other regions (in Japan),” Suga said.

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