Japanese police arrest two doctors for not reporting bird flu cases

Japanese police arrested two veterinarians Monday for allegedly failing to report suspected bird flu infections at three chicken farms to local authorities, media reports said.

Ibaraki prefectural (state) police suspect a veterinarian working for IKN Egg Farms last August requested a National Institute of Animal Health veterinarian to conduct tests to confirm bird flu infections in chickens from the three farms, Kyodo News agency and the Asahi newspaper said.

Police suspect the test results came back positive, but neither veterinarian reported the findings to Ibaraki authorities as required by laws covering infectious diseases in domestic animals, Kyodo and Asahi said.

Police are also questioning several other people connected to the farms and may make further arrests, Kyodo said.

Ibaraki police officials declined to immediately comment on the reports.

Police last December searched 25 facilities operated by IKN Egg Farms in Ibaraki, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Tokyo, and elsewhere over allegations the company rotated chickens among its farms to ensure they passed tests for the bird flu virus.

IKN Egg Farms is based in Yokohama, a major port city 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Tokyo.

About 2.5 million birds have already been destroyed at other Ibaraki farms since June last year following outbreaks of the H5N2 strain of the bird flu virus.

The H5N2 strain of bird flu is less virulent than H5N1, which has killed at least 92 people, mostly in Southeast Asia, since 2003, according to the World Health Organization, reports the AP.

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