A daily chronicle of ongoing events pertaining to infectious diseases
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Japan: Airports and local governments have started taking measures to check for bird flu
By:The Yomiuri Shimbun,Published on Thu Apr 11 2013
TOKYO — Local governments and airports throughout Japan are on high alert against the new strain ofbird fluin anticipation of a global outbreak as the death toll from the disease is increasing slowly but steadily in China.
To develop a vaccine, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has obtained the H7N9 strain from China, where its infection of humans was reported for the first time on March 31.
“I’d say the current situation is two stages prior to the major outbreaks of the disease four years ago,” an official of the ministry said Wednesday.
The first cases of the disease were announced last month by Chinese authorities, who said two of three patients had died. Since then, the number of patients has steadily increased, totaling 33 as of Wednesday.
The death toll stands at 10, according to The Associated Press on Thursday.
According to the World Health Organization, there were two suspected cases of patients within the same “family clusters” in China that may have been the first cases of human-to-human infection.
The ministry said it believes that the cases of infection within the same families announced by WHO were the results of individual infections occurring in an enclosed space and not necessarily the product of human-to-human infection, which could trigger a pandemic.
The ministry, however, did not rule out the possibility of a global outbreak of the disease as a virus can mutate into something more highly contagious.
The health ministry’s assessment that the current situation is “two stages prior” to the major outbreak in 2009 was based on significant differences in the surrounding circumstances.
After the disease was confirmed in Mexico and elsewhere in April 2009, the avian flu instantly spread to many countries. The strain was confirmed in humans in Japan the following month. This time, however, the H7N9 strain has been found only in areas of China, including Shanghai and the provinces of Anhui and Jiangsu. The spread of the infection has also been much slower than in 2009.
The ministry obtained the virus Wednesday from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a vaccine at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
To combat the strain, the Japanese government has decided to introduce a legislation for dealing with new types of influenza Friday, earlier than scheduled. The measure will enable the government to declare a state of emergency and allow heads of local governments to ask their residents to voluntarily stay indoors.
Airports and local governments have started taking measures to check for bird flu.
At airports including Narita, Kansai and Shin-Chitose, posters that urged passengers to China “not to come close to animals without caution” and to “wash your hands often” were put up in the quarantine areas. Thermographic devices at the quarantine station were used to scan the body temperatures of passengers for cases of high fever.
Local governments including Hokkaido, Kyoto and Fukuoka prefectures asked medical institutions to immediately report any possible cases of infection to public health authorities. The Osaka prefectural government held a meeting last week to address the situation. The prefectural government planned to increase its stock of Relenza, an antiviral drug.
However, little progress has been made in securing the human resources to conduct virus testing and establishing outpatient departments at hospitals specialized in handling the virus.
Local government officials said they would examine such measures if confirmed cases of human-to-human infection arise.