An outbreak of bird flu has been confirmed at a farm in the Japanese prefecture of Yamaguchi. The local government began culling 37,000 chickens on Tuesday, Kyodo News reported.

Health officials have ordered a ban on live and dead chickens being transported in area around the farm in Yamaguchi.

Japan Times reported that, on Tuesday, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan's central government "will continue to take all necessary measures if any further outbreaks are confirmed".

This is the third confirmed outbreak of bird flu in Japan this winter.

The two previous outbreaks both occurred in the eastern Miyazaki Prefecture. On 16 December, bird flu was found in the city of Nobeoka. It was also discovered in a farm near Miyazaki on Sunday, 29 December, leading to 42,000 chickens being culled.

In April avian flu appeared in two chicken farms in Kumamoto, Kumamoto Prefecture on the island of Kyushu. As a result 120,000 chickens were destroyed.

Japan's agricultural ministry said these outbreaks were the first time that bird flu had appeared in the country for three years.

Officials stated that all five cases involved the H5 variant of avian flu.

People can only be infected by the H5 variant of avian flu through coming into direct contact with infected birds. Normal cooking processes kills the virus.

Both South Korea and China have both had major outbreaks of avian flu this year, leading to some deaths in China.