Japan swine flu cases closes 4,400 schools
May 19th, 2009 in Breaking News
Japan reports 193 swine flu cases, closes 4,400 schools.

KOBE, Japan (AFP) – Japan reported 193 swine flu infections Tuesday and closed more than 4,400 schools, colleges and kindergartens for the rest of the week to slow the spread of the virus, officials and reports said.

Experts warned that infections had probably already spread to other regions including the capital Tokyo, which with almost 36 million people is the world’s most populous urban area and the heart of the Japanese economy.

“The virus’s spread to Tokyo is near certain, and it would be little wonder if the virus had already landed in Tokyo undetected,” said Yukihiro Nishiyama, a virologist at Nagoya University in central Japan.

“Of course, there is no need to overreact, but authorities and people in the capital should go ahead with their preparation,” Nishiyama told AFP.

Visitors to many public places — from the parliamentary visitors’ gallery to the national sumo tournament in Tokyo — have been asked to disinfect their hands on entry, wear surgical face masks, or both.

Japan’s first domestic cases of the (A)H1N1 virus were confirmed Saturday in the western cities of Kobe and Osaka, where they spread quickly in and between two high schools that had met for a volleyball tournament.

This was confirmed in Geneva by World Health Organization Director General Margaret Chan, who said the pattern of progress of the virus in Japan was “not unusual”.

Face masks have become ubiquitous on subways and in shopping centres of the affected Japanese prefectures of Osaka and Hyogo in the central region of the main island of Honshu.

Nagoya-based mask maker Kowa Co. reported sales turnover in mid-May has been 40 times higher than in the same month last year, a news report said.

The government has urged calm and reminded people that no one in Japan has so far died of the disease and that most infections are mild.

A total of 4,432 kindergartens, schools, colleges and universities were closed for at least this week in the two prefectures at the request of the government, up from some 2,000 Monday, an education ministry official said.

Neighbouring Kyoto, Nara, Okayama and Wakayama prefectures closed 32 schools voluntarily.

Japan’s number of confirmed cases rose to 193 — the fourth largest national figure on the world infection table, Kyodo news agency reported late Tuesday.

Source: Japan swine flu cases closes 4,400 schools | FREE PRESS INTERNATIONAL