- Title: AUSTRALIA/JAPAN: New H1N1 flu virus spreads to big cities in Asia-Pacific
- Date: 22nd May 2009
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (MAY 21, 2009) (REUTERS) BUILDINGS AND TRAINS RUNNING IN DOWNTOWN TOKYO PEOPLE WALKING IN STREET VARIOUS OF PEOPLE WEARING MASKS (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) MASAKO HONMA, DRY CLEANER, SAYING: "I knew the flu virus would be spreading to Tokyo. I'm wearing a mask because I watched the news about the Tokyo case and I didn't want to spread the virus to people around me if I ever get infected." (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) MASAHIRO SHOJI, LABORATORY WORKER, SAYING: "My company has asked all the employees to wear masks so we're all starting to wear masks at work on Monday." (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) ASAMI SUZUKI, COLLEGE STUDENT, SAYING: "I'm a bit scared, too, but I think people are making too big of a deal about this flu."
- Embargoed: 6th June 2009 13:00
- Topics: Health
- Reuters ID: LVAE0XNDAGFOSQFN8OFKVE2U6T2F
- Story Text: New flu cases spread to major cities in the Asia-Pacific region, now hitting Tokyo and Melbourne among other cities.
The spread of the new H1N1 virus in Asia showed no signs of slowing down on Thursday (May 21) as new infections were confirmed in Japan's capital city of Tokyo as well as in Melbourne, Australia.
Japan has reported its first case of the new H1N1 flu in its densely populated capital Tokyo, with the total number of cases in Japan rising to more than 270.
Nobody has died of the virus in Japan and the majority of cases, affecting mostly teenagers, have been mild, a Health Ministry spokesman said.
In Tokyo, a 16-year-old female high school student, who had recently returned from New York, tested positive for the new flu strain.
Authorities in Tokyo have decided to close the high school where the student attends at least for a few days.
"Local officials in Tokyo and Kawasaki announced yesterday that one female teenager in each city tested positive for the new flu. Both women came back from New York on May 19," Japan's top government spokesman Takeo Kawamura told a regular news conference on Thursday.
"If we continue seeing more cancellations of school activities and public events, Tokyo might see part of its basic functions as a city affected by the flu," Kawamura warned.
About 4,500 schools, mostly in the western prefectures of Osaka and Hyogo about 400 km (250 miles) from Tokyo, have closed their doors until the end of the week.
On the streets of Tokyo, an increasing number of people are now wearing masks in an effort to avoid infection, and pharmacies are running out of stock of masks.
"I knew the flu virus would be spreading to Tokyo. I'm wearing a mask because I watched the news about the Tokyo case and I didn't want to spread the virus to people around me if I ever get infected," said Masako Honma, a dry cleaner in Tokyo.
Some companies have made it compulsory for their employees to wear masks at work.
"My company has asked all the employees to wear masks so we're all starting to wear masks at work on Monday," said Masahiro Shoji, 66, a part-time engineer working at a petroleum firm's laboratory.
Some in the younger generation seemed to be taking it easier.
"I'm a bit scared, too, but I think people are making too big of a deal about this flu," Asami Suzuki, a college student in Tokyo.
Meanwhile, a school in Melbourne called a meeting for some parents on Thursday morning, after a 12-year old pupil tested positive for swine flu.
Parents and pupils at Thornbury High School were urged to keep calm during the meeting, despite the rising number of swine flu cases in Australia.
"The panic was spread a little bit but we still remained calm," a pupil said.
Three brothers, aged 9, 10 and 12, tested positive for the H1N1 virus after a family trip to Disneyland, LA.
Authorities do not believe that the boy, 12, had contact with other classmates. He has been quarantined.
"It doesn't make a difference unless someone tells me I've got it," another pupil said.
Health authorities quarantined 26 classmates at Clifton Hill Primary School where the boy's two brothers attend. The school will remain closed on Thursday and Friday (May 22) as a precautionary measure.
"It seems they're following it really carefully and closely and there's really no need to panic," said an unidentified woman.
The vast majority of H1N1 cases are in Mexico and the United States, but the spread of the disease to about 40 countries led the World Health Organisation to declare a pandemic was imminent at the end of April.
Its pandemic alert level is now 5 out of a maximum 6-level scale.
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