May 17, 2009

Swine Flu Spreading In Japan

Japan confirmed 20 new cases of swine flu on Sunday, while senior health officials gathered in Geneva to discuss how to contain the virus.

The flu cases were discovered in Japan's western Osaka prefecture and the city of Kobe in the adjacent Hyogo prefecture, where there were eight students with the virus already.

"I don't know specifics about the cases (in Japan), but judging from confirmed cases the infection is likely to be spreading to hundreds of people," Japanese virologist Masato Tashiro told public broadcaster NHK while speaking in Geneva.

"There must be a number of people who slipped through border controls (at airports) as their symptoms were quite light, passing the virus to other people before they knew it."

The World Health Organization will have their annual assembly in Geneva on Monday, where the global outbreak of swine flu is expected to dominate discussions.

According to the latest figures released by the WHO, close to 8,500 people in three dozen countries have been infected with A(H1N1).  The cases confirmed in Turkey and India has not yet been included in the tally.

Over 70 people have died from the virus, most of them in Mexico, where the new strain of swine flu was first detected less than a month ago.

Keiji Fukuda, the acting WHO Assistant Director General, said that studies indicate a "significant number of people" have been infected, but their cases had either not yet been detected or confirmed by laboratory tests.

The WHO might be shortening their talks from 10 to five days so senior officials are not away from their duties for too long.

The world governments have still yet to reach a final agreement on the sharing of virus research material and vaccines in case of a global flu pandemic.

President Felipe Calderon, Mexico's president, said that his country has turned in to the WHO a sample of the virus on Saturday, along with statistical and clinical data on the evolution of the strain there.

Mexican authorities say that they are on a path to control the outbreak.  The health ministry said in a statement that "if the virus is dealt with on time, usually it is curable."

Officials shut down schools and cancelled public events in Kobe, Japan as a preventive measure.

Officials said that so far there is no link that has been found between students in Osaka and Kobe who tested positive, and that about 100 more teens in Osaka were to be tested.

Prime Minister Taro Aso told the public to remain calm while head of the government's special swine flu task force, Shigeru Omi, said that, "We believe that the infection is beginning to spread in the region."

Japan had confirmed four other case of swine flu earlier this month, putting the country's total at 32.  Those people all have now recovered.

The WHO has advised everyone that is traveling that is not feeling well to postpone his or her trips.


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