Japan has tightened preventive measures against the threat of swine flu as the deadly outbreaks in Mexico claimed more than 60 human lives.
At a meeting of ministry and agency section chiefs Saturday, the government decided to strengthen measures to prevent the virulent strain of swine flu from spreading to Japan and issued an advisory for travelers to Mexico and the United States, where eight people were infected with the disease, that urges precautions such as wearing masks and washing hands, and called on all people returning from either country to report unusual symptoms.
The health, labor and welfare ministry held an emergency press conference Saturday to warn the public of the flu threat and announced preparations to tackle the potential influenza pandemic.
It is not yet clear whether the World Health Organization (WHO) will certify the swine flu as a new strain of influenza, said Yoshio Nanba, chief of the ministry's office for pandemic influenza. But the ministry has begun preparations together with ministries and agencies concerned to take joint actions if the WHO 's confirmation comes.
Nanba called on the public to respond calmly and act on correct information.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministry established a liaison office and begun around-the-clock gathering of information on the outbreak and urged those who are bound for the swine flu-stricken country to abort their trips.
At Kansai and Narita international airports, the quarantine station used thermographic imaging to check the temperatures of passengers coming from Mexico to detect fevers that could be caused by swine flue infections.
The Agriculture, forestry and fisheries ministry also instructed animal quarantine offices across Japan to check live pigs brought into Japan for possible infection.
In Mexico City, where a total of 24 new suspected cases were reported on Saturday, the Japanese Embassy said there were no reports of deaths from the flu or infections among the more than 5, 000 Japanese living in Mexico. The embassy said it is too early to recommend evacuation from the country.
The swine flu is believed to have killed as many as 68 people and sickened more than 1,000 across Mexico.
(Xinhua News Agency April 26, 2009)