Japan closes more than 4,000 schools over H1N1 flu fears
Posted: 19 May 2009 1110 hrs

KOBE, Japan: Japan closed more than 4,000 schools and kindergartens on Tuesday, double the previous day’s number, to slow the spread of H1N1 flu which has infected 173 people in the country, officials said.

Many people in the affected urban areas were wearing face masks after the western cities of Kobe and Osaka became the first in Japan to suffer domestic outbreaks of the (A)H1N1 virus which spread rapidly through two schools.

A total of 4,043 schools and kindergartens were closed in and around both cities at the request of government authorities, up from some 2,000 on Monday, an education ministry official said.

Japan’s number of confirmed cases has risen to 173 – the fourth largest national figure on the world infection table – in the central Honshu island region since the first confirmed domestic infection was reported on Saturday.

No fatalities have been reported in Japan.

Experts warn the virus would likely soon spread to other regions, including the capital Tokyo, which with almost 36 million people, is the world’s most populous urban area and the heart of the Japanese economy.

The virus is believed to have spread between Kobe and nearby Osaka after high schools from the two cities met for a volleyball tournament, with some players and coaches feeling feverish after the games.