More news form Japan as questions arise concerning absenteeism from schools and the apparent overwhelming proportion of school aged patients. The article also discusses the impact of no notice closures of day care centers and nursery’s and working mothers. Additional information discusses the flood of patrons in grocery stores as well as concerns that workers at a railway station kiosk and a bank teller have contracted H1N1.
Again, there is the focus of government efforts at attempting to discern why H1N1 is able to spread among those that have not been abroad. (sheesh)
KOBE – The number of domestic swine flu cases reached 140 in Hyogo and Osaka as of Monday evening, prompting fears of an epidemic and leading to calls from the two governors to shut down all schools in the prefectures and for the central government to do more.
But local officials warned more confirmed cases were likely to follow throughout this week, while health experts continued efforts to discover how the potentially deadly virus infected people who had not been abroad
The closure of nursery schools was hitting working mothers hard, Kobe officials said, with many searching for friends and relatives to watch over their children.
“In some ways, it’s similar to what happened after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, when there were also fears of an influenza outbreak,” said Toshio Kotera, 31, a Kobe resident who works near the station.
“Like then, everybody is now making emergency preparations in case they get sick or have to be quarantined.”
Kobe residents were especially nervous about the news that a 50-year-old woman working at a kiosk in Sannomiya Station had contracted the virus.
West Japan Railway Co. shut down its kiosks at the station. A female employee in her 20s at Mitsubishi UFJ Bank’s Sannomiya branch also contracted the virus and the bank responded by asking its staff at the branch to remain at home.
But Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido and Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto, who were in Tokyo to attend a meeting of governors, told reporters that the situation is rapidly turning into an epidemic and that their prefectures are limited in what they can do.
“The situation is getting close to epidemic proportions and we need the central government’s help,” Ido told health minister Yoichi Masuzoe.
“The health minister has all of the authority and responsibility and has to get the central government to move. In this kind of a situation, we’ll follow what the health ministry says,” Hashimoto told a morning news conference in Osaka, where he issued an epidemic warning despite being urged by some officials that it was too early to do so.
In Kobe, health officials worried about patients overwhelming local medical facilities have asked that only those with high fevers go to hospitals and that all others call local fever consultation centers first.
Later Monday, signs of a further spread of domestic infections were seen beyond Osaka and Hyogo.
In nearby Nara Prefecture, more than 1,000 junior and high school students in the prefecture were absent from school Monday complaining of illnesses, although links to the H1N1 virus were unclear, officials said.
During a meeting to discuss how to handle the spreading virus, Nara officials learned that 1,117 students, including 453 junior high school students, 646 high school students, and 18 students at special schools, were absent Monday. Several teachers were reportedly sick as well.