Sunday, May 17, 2009
The Yomiuri Shimbun (MCT)
TOKYO — A 17-year-old third-year male student in Kobe, Japan, was confirmed infected with the new type of influenza virus, or H1N1, also known as swine flu, Saturday, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
It is the first infection of the new flu confirmed in Japan outside of cases discovered during onboard quarantine inspections at airports.
A second-year male student, 16, and a second-year female student, 16, who both attend the same Hyogo prefectural high school with the infected student also are showing flulike symptoms such as fever and tested positive for Type A influenza in a gene test Saturday. The National Institute of Infectious Diseases is conducting final tests on them to confirm whether they have the new flu.
Because the three students have not traveled abroad, making it likely that the infection is spreading from person to person within Japan, the central government plans to raise its alert level stipulated in its action plan and take measures to prevent the virus from spreading.
Seventeen of the about 1,000 other students at the school have reportedly shown flulike symptoms.
With an infection of the new flu confirmed in Japan, the government's new influenza task force, led by Prime Minister Taro Aso, held an executive meeting and experts' advisory committee to discuss measures Saturday afternoon.
At a press conference Saturday afternoon, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe said, "While we were trying to prevent the new flu from coming into Japan with tight quarantine measures at airports, the domestic system to cope with the flu also has been well established."
He said the government intends to raise its action plan level from the first stage (overseas occurrence period) to the second stage (early stage of domestic occurrence). Concerning measures to be taken, he said, "We will deal with the situation flexibly, including whether to close schools, in consultation with local governments."
The Kobe municipal government decided Saturday to close 99 municipal schools, including kindergartens, primary schools, middle schools and high schools in three districts of eastern Kobe for seven days until Friday. The municipal government also will request private schools and universities in Kobe to close for a certain period.
According to the city government, the third-year student who was confirmed infected developed a chill Monday and saw a doctor the next day. As he had a fever and tested positive for Type A influenza by a simple test, the doctor sent the sample specimen to the Kobe Municipal Environmental Health Institute. It tested positive for the new flu in gene test made there Friday and confirmed in a test by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases on Saturday.
The doctor told local authorities that the other two students who also had fevers tested positive for Type A influenza. The two later tested positive for the new flu in the gene test conducted by the Kobe Municipal Environmental Health Institute.
The three students were hospitalized at a designated hospital for infectious diseases before dawn Saturday.
The fever of the third-year student dropped on Friday. The female student has almost recovered and reportedly only has a runny nose. The second-year male student had a fever as of Friday evening. The families of the three students reportedly show no symptoms.
According to the high school the three students attend, the third-year student belongs to the volleyball club and one of the second-year students belongs to the soccer club. The three students seem to have had no close contact with each other as they do different classes and club activities.
The municipal government is performing simple tests on the other 17 students who have shown flulike symptoms.
The school contacted all of its students Saturday morning and told them not to go out and to cancel all club activities. The municipal government has begun looking into who the three students have been in contact with.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry also dispatched a staff member to the municipal government Saturday morning to expedite confirmation about the infection route by talking to people who might have had contact with the students during the assumed seven-day incubation period and asking about how they contacted with the students and about their health conditions.
(c) 2009, The Yomiuri Shimbun.
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