Flu samples from a 4-month-old American baby in Tokyo suffering from type A influenza were being tested at a Japanese lab Saturday to determine whether it is the new swine-avian-human flu.
The results of the genetic screening, which is being conducted by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo, may find whether the baby has the new H1N1 flu. The results were expected later in the day, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.
The baby arrived at Yokota Air Base from the United States on Friday and tested positive for the A strain in a preliminary test. The results are expected to be passed on to the U.S. military and then to the Foreign Ministry.
Officials from U.S. Forces Japan said the samples would also be tested in the United States, a process expected to take five to eight days.
Japan and the United States agreed Friday to allow secondary tests for suspected flu cases to be undertaken by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases to speed up the process, government sources said.
After the first tests proved positive, the baby and mother were isolated at a medical facility at the base, the Foreign Ministry said, based on information from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
The baby had a temperature of over 37 degrees when the plane with 260 to 270 military personnel and other passengers arrived from Seattle around 8:20 a.m., the ministry said Friday night. Thirteen passengers who were seated near the baby will be isolated until they are confirmed as negative for the new flu virus.
The plane, chartered by the U.S. military, was en route from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, and Okinawa Prefecture, which host other U.S. bases.
Meanwhile, six worried municipalities around the base petitioned the base and a local office of the Defense Ministry to impose quarantine procedures similar to those in place at Narita and other international airports and to promptly disclose the baby’s test results.
Musashimurayama, the city coordinating the six municipalities, said it has been told the base is served by one flight per week and that arriving passengers have been filling out health questionnaires, following measures like those at Narita.
An official at Musashimurayama’s policy planning division praised the base for finding the sick baby, but complained that communication is taking too long because local governments are being notified via the Foreign Ministry and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
“We hope information is provided at the earliest possible time,” the official said, adding that a further request to that effect may be made within days.
Also late Friday night, a man in his 30s returning from the United States tested negative after being suspected of having the new strain, Nagoya municipal officials said. It is not clear when he got back from the U.S.
The man, described by government sources as a Toyota Motor Corp. employee, tested positive for type A in a preliminary exam, but further tests conducted by the city’s public health institute found he did not have the new strain.
No confirmed cases of the new flu have been reported in Japan.
‘Fever clinics’ on way Some 681 “fever clinics” are being opened nationwide for the express purpose of treating people who think they have the new strain of influenza spreading around the world, a survey said Saturday.
But it might take some time to get them all up as each of the 47 prefectures and 18 major cities goes at its own pace. Tokyo had only set up 60 clinics, followed by Nagano with 51 and just three each in Gunma and Okayama prefectures, the survey showed.
Prefectures and major cities that can’t work as quickly are expected to ask private medical institutions to open them.
The government decided to set up fever clinics nationwide in case an outbreak of the new flu hits the country. Several local governments said some hospitals have been reluctant to open the clinics, partly because they think they might be flooded with infected patients should an outbreak occur, the survey said.
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