TOKYO – Animal health officials in Japan have started culling more than 300,000 birds after confirming the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza on two farms located in northern Japan, according to published news reports.

In the Aomori prefecture, about 16,500 ducks were being culled after some of the birds tested positive for bird flu, according to the government website.

In Niigata prefecture, animal health authorities began culling more than 300,000 chickens at a farm in Sekikawa after 40 birds were found dead from an H5 strain of avian influenza.

This marks the second-largest cull of birds in Japan since 2011, when more than 1 million birds were culled to contain an avian influenza outbreak.

Earlier this month, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N8 among wild birds and poultry across Europe.

The H5N8 virus was confirmed in Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, and the Netherlands. And in France, where the poultry industry is still recovering from an earlier outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, H5N8 recently was detected in wild ducks. France has the largest poultry flock in the European Union, according to Reuters.