A baby who arrived Friday at the U.S. Yokota Air Base in Tokyo from the United States has tested positive for type-A influenza in a preliminary exam and may be the first case here of the new H1N1 strain, the Foreign Ministry said on the heels of reports that two Japanese earlier suspected of having caught the virus were in fact suffering other forms of flu.
A Yokohama high school boy who recently visited Canada had earlier been suspected of carrying the new strain, but a followup test turned out negative, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday.
Health minister Yoichi Masuzoe, breathing a sigh of relief, said the youth had the Soviet A-type influenza, not the swine-avian-human flu that first surfaced in Mexico and is causing pandemic fears.
Thursday night it was reported a 25-year-old woman returning to Japan aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles had tested positive for the influenza-A virus, possibly being Japan’s first H1N1 case, but she was later diagnosed with type-A Hong Kong flu.
The 4-month-old baby who arrived at the Yokota base and the infant’s mother have been isolated at a medical facility on base, while 13 other passengers seated near the baby on the airplane will be isolated until they are confirmed as not being infected with the H1N1 strain, the Foreign Ministry said, based on information provided by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
Details, including the gender of the baby, are not known.
The U.S. side is conducting further tests on the baby and will provide the results to Japanese authorities as soon as they are known.
The 17-year-old youth tested positive in a preliminary A-type flu test Thursday during a medical checkup after returning with classmates from a trip to British Columbia on April 25. His symptoms included a fever, coughing and phlegm, Masuzoe said.
The National Infectious Disease Surveillance Center, which examined the Yokohama sample, said it took time confirming whether the student had the H1N1 subtype, because the amount of virus in the sample was too small.
“There is no need to panic. I ask people to take measures against ordinary influenza, such as wearing masks and washing hands,” Masuzoe said.
The Yokohama student had a fever of 39, but that dropped to 37 on Friday and he is recovering, city officials said.
None of his family or schoolmates has flu symptoms, but the city is questioning teachers and students about where they went and with whom they came into contact, the official said.
The boy tested positive on a polymerase chain reaction test that detects the DNA of the virus, but the results were not conclusive enough to declare he was infected with the new flu, the health ministry said.
A school official said 115 students and five teachers went on the excursion and came back to the school on three buses from Narita airport.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization said it will no longer use the term “swine flu” to refer to the new strain of A virus rapidly spreading across the world, citing protests from pork and other farm industries. The WHO will instead use the term “influenza A (H1N1),” a representative said.
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