Thu, May 21, 2009

TOKYO, May 21, 2009 (AFP) – The number of swine flu cases in Japan soared towards 300 Thursday and Canada announced a big jump in infections as the global epidemic showed no signs of letting up.

Local media said 281 cases of the (A)H1N1 virus had been confirmed in Japan, including two cases in Tokyo – the world’s largest urban area, home to about 36 million people – as Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso urged calm.

Authorities in two of the country’s western prefectures have closed more than 4,800 schools, colleges and kindergartens for the rest of the week at least to slow the spread of the virus, the education ministry said.

In Canada, authorities said the number of swine flu cases had soared by more than 200 since the end of last week.

“Of the 719 cases, 13 have required hospitalisation, which supports what we have seen so far in Canada, that the severity of the symptoms is more typical of seasonal flu,” said Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer David Butler-Jones.

“However, even with a mild flu, we need to remain vigilant in preventing illness and watching for changes in the virus.”

The World Health Organization said Wednesday the number of confirmed swine flu cases around the world now stands at 10,243 – 80 of them fatal. Most of the deaths have occurred in Mexico, the epicentre of the outbreak.

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