• Kyodo News


The virulence of a new strain of influenza that is quickly spreading around the world is believed to be “around the same level” as that of normal seasonal influenza, a Japanese virologist who is a member of the World Health Organization’s panel on the epidemic said Wednesday.

Masato Tashiro, head of the influenza virus research center at Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases, also said one of the characteristics of the new strain of influenza A (H1N1) is the fact that few people in their 60s and older have become seriously ill from the disease.

Elderly people may have some kind of immunity, Tashiro told a press conference at the institute via telecast.

In normal seasonal influenza, elderly people often suffer from severe symptoms and develop pneumonia but “strangely” such a tendency has not been observed in the new flu outbreak, he said.

On the situation in Mexico, where the epidemic likely originated and has killed more than 40 people, Tashiro said, “The actual fatality rate from the flu is believed to be low because there appear to be many unreported cases of infected people.”

Tashiro, elaborating on earlier remarks that the new flu strain is of mild virulence, said the flu could spread rapidly because it is highly contagious. “It is absolutely necessary to make efforts to prevent the flu from spreading and to reduce the health hazards from it,” he added.

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