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Outbreak of new strain of flu appears to be imminent

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  • Outbreak of new strain of flu appears to be imminent

    This article is confusing, it sounds like the reporter is mixing up pan flu with seasonal.

    Outbreak of new strain of flu appears to be imminent

    Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 16:45 EST
    TOKYO ? <!-- google_ad_section_start -->The outbreak of a new strain of influenza appears to be imminent with the approach of the flu season, and doctors are advising Japanese, especially company employees and others in the workplace, to be more vigilant against the disease.
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    "There is a prediction that if a new strain breaks out now, slightly fewer than 40 million people in Japan will be infected and 1 million people will die," said Seizaburo Kashiwagi, a flu expert and director of the Fukuoka Prefectural Red Cross Blood Center.
    Avian flu breaks out almost annually, and there are reports of human infection with the disease. Antiflu drugs are considered to be effective to some extent, but causing fear is the rapid spread of viruses carried by air travelers.
    At Narita airport, near Tokyo, about 20,000 people arrive in Japan from abroad every day on average, and "transit isolators" ? movable stretchers hermetically sealed with transparent vinyl sheets ? are placed in the health consultation room next to the quarantine booth.
    If a patient of a new strain of flu is found, the person will be carried on one of the stretchers to the Red Cross Hospital in Narita city, a medical facility designated to treat patients with infectious diseases.
    Hitoshi Kikuchi, a doctor at the Narita Airport Quarantine Station sent from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, said, "In the case of a new strain of influenza, the infection will be caused by viruses scattered around by coughing and other means. The countermeasures will be the same as those for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) which was rampant in China in 2003." SARS was caused by a new strain of coronavirus.
    Kashiwagi said, "In reports about people who died of infection with bird influenza, the virus entered into the blood and was carried all over the body. The cause of death is multiple organ failure, and there was hemophagocytic syndrome."
    There are two types of an anti-influenza drug via oral dosing or anti-flu drug through nasal absorption. "For hemophagocytic syndrome, the injection of immune-suppressing drugs and steroid drugs used thus far should be considered," he said.
    In late November, parents accompanying infants and elderly people flocked to the Hanji Clinic in Tokyo's Nakameguro, keeping its director, Naoto Hanji, busy with vaccinations.
    "There were more than 20 people a day. There was a day when the number reached 50. Previously, there were many parents who were not vaccinated, although their children received vaccinations, but recently, the number of parents who want vaccinations is increasing," he said.
    The most important antiflu measure is vaccination. According to the Japan Physicians Association, 79% of patients of the A strain of flu could have prevented contracting the disease during the flu high season if they had been vaccinated while the figure was 26% during the low season. Last season's average was 46%, testifying to the effectiveness of the vaccination.
    On the other hand, treatment for those infected has drastically changed in recent years with the debut of Tamiflu and other antiflu drugs, and the popularization of a "quick diagnosis kit" by which nose mucosa or liquid taken from the throat is analyzed to determine whether it is negative or positive in five to 20 minutes.
    Hanji said, "If a person is found to be infected with flu, a drug will be administered immediately. Previously, it took several days before the result of a check, ordered from outside, was known, and the treatment was not so effective."
    He is diagnosing all possible flu patients with the kit, and they are basically treated with Tamiflu. "Especially, meningitis and brain fever in children are feared. To curb the activity of viruses, I have to use Tamiflu. But its abuse invites resistant viruses. I would like to minimize its use by proper diagnoses."
    Each local government is all-out to secure enough vaccines and antiflu drugs, but health officials are concerned about the lack of interest among company employees and socially active people in such prevention measures.
    "Compared with the aged and preschool children, working generations are slow as usual. Early inoculation is desirable, but they seem to be short of a sense of crisis," said an official in charge at a municipal government in the Kyushu area.
    The health ministry is ready to supply 22-23 million bottles of vaccine ? enough for 44-46 million adults ? but the problem is that vaccinations are not covered by public medical insurance. The cost per vaccination is about 3,500 yen, a reason for slow rates of vaccination among workers.
    The ministry is also ready to provide Tamiflu and other antiflu drugs for 12.3 million people. Some medical experts doubt whether the amount is enough if there is a flu outbreak. But a ministry official said, "We can fully cope with even an outbreak matching the largest of the last 10 years."<!-- google_ad_section_end -->

    ? 2007 Kyodo News. All rights reserved. No reproduction or republication without written permission.
    "We are in this breathing space before it happens. We do not know how long that breathing space is going to be. But, if we are not all organizing ourselves to get ready and to take action to prepare for a pandemic, then we are squandering an opportunity for our human security"- Dr. David Nabarro

  • #2
    Re: Outbreak of new strain of flu appears to be imminent

    Originally posted by MHSC

    This article is confusing, it sounds like the reporter is mixing up pan flu with seasonal.
    Yes, I agree. Some of the paragraphs refer to effects of current influenza strains. However, the quote from the Director of the Red Cross Blood Center must be referring to infected individuals in the event of a pandemic. Current population of Japan is around 127 million people, if 40 million are infected from a new strain, that is an attack rate of about 30%. One million dead from 40 million infected individuals would be a case fatality rate (CFR) of 2.5%. That is the low end of the estimate for CFR that is being bandied about for a pandemic.