Sunday, May 17, 2009

More Kobe Flu and a Sea of Masks

There are more people wearing masks in Kobe than you can shake a stick at! Of course, on any normal day of the year, no matter where you are, you'll see lots of people wearing masks. they are either fearful of spreading infections or acquiring them. Today is a little different. With 4 confirmed cases of domestic H1N1 here in Kobe (as of today).

Most schools in Kobe city and Osaka city have been closed due to the flu "hysteria"...and it truly is hysteria here in Japan, mostly to the sensationalizing of H1N1 by the Japanese media (they are really blowing things out of proportion!). I work just outside of Kobe City and am scheduled to work as usual tomorrow morning, but I have a feeling things might change later this week as the new flu seems to be spreading throughout Hyogo Prefecture.

I was told hat I had to wear a mask while working tomorrow so my wife and I struck out to find some at a local pharmacy. It wasn't such an easy task. Masks are going like hotcakes in these parts (medical masks are the Japanese "hotcake" for sure!). Eventually, after 5 or 6 pharmacies we visited apologized to us (in the ever polite Japanese way) about being completely sold out, we were able to find one package of masks for me at a pharmacy (or chemist for any fine folks from the British Isles who may be reading this)close to my house. I'll be ready to look like a doctor while going to work tomorrow morning. The question is, how many students will actually show up tomorrow?

Here's the latest news on the Kobe H1N1 from JapanToday:

Japan confirms 13 more flu cases; total domestic cases rise to 21
Sunday 17th May, 03:38 PM JST


A total of 13 students from a high school in Osaka Prefecture and one in Hyogo Prefecture were confirmed to have been infected with the new strain of influenza A, the health ministry and local authorities said Sunday, bringing the total number of domestic infections in Japan to 21 in the two prefectures.

The confirmation follows the discovery of Japan’s first eight domestic cases of the new flu in Hyogo, which adjoins Osaka, on Saturday.

‘‘We need to be fully prepared to prevent the further spread of infections,’’ Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters.

The 21 cases exclude four cases discovered during onboard quarantine inspections at Narita International Airport among a group of Japanese students and teachers who flew home from the United States after a trip to Canada.

Of the 13 new cases, nine are from Kansai Okura Senior High School in the city of Ibaraki and none have traveled overseas recently, the Osaka prefectural government said.

About 110 students at the high school have shown symptoms of influenza since around Monday, according to the privately-run school.

The school will be closed from Monday through Saturday. Experts suspect a group infection at the school.

The other four of the 13 are from Kobe High School, a public-run school whose three students are among the first eight people confirmed to have the new flu.

The government on Saturday shifted the stage of its new-flu action program from ‘‘a period of overseas outbreak’’ to ‘‘an early period of domestic outbreak’’ and called for companies and schools in the areas concerned to allow individuals to avoid commuting during rush hours.

Commenting on the discovery of the first domestic infections in Japan, Masato Tashiro, chief of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases’ influenza virus research laboratory, said that community-level transmissions may have begun in Japan.

Tashiro, a member of the World Health Organization’s emergency committee, told reporters at the organization’s headquarters on Saturday that several hundred people in Japan may already be infected with the H1N1 strain of influenza A.
See original...

Here is the latest coverage from the Japan Times Online:

Teens in Kobe test positive for H1N1
First in-country swine flu cases shut schools
Kyodo News

Schools in the Kansai region were shut down in three wards in Kobe and in the nearby city of Ashiya after a local high school student became the first of a spate of nine domestic cases of H1N1 swine flu.

The student, who has been hospitalized, is a 17-year-old male from prefecture-run Kobe High School who has never been overseas, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

Two other students from the school, a male and a female, also tested positive later in the day, along with five more people from a different high school in Kobe, and a high school student from Osaka Prefecture, the ministry said.
Read More Here...

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