Japan has always been very sensitive to protecting people from viruses. In the western world we have been looking at masks from the perspective of keeping ourselves safe from others. When I visited Tokyo for the first time I asked about the people I saw wearing face masks and found that this is normal practice for people who have a respiratory illness such as a cold or flu, so that they could continue to work and go out while protecting other people from their germs. In NZ we don’t look at it that way, if we share our germs, its just tough luck for the recipient.
Of course one of the problems in Japan is shear numbers of people, not dissimilar to Mexico City. I used to stay in Shinjuku and would regularly catch local trains to get around Tokyo City. Shinjuku station serves over 1 million people a day, the first time I visited Tokyo they still had men with white gloves, pushing people onto the trains to make way for more.
Today I read an announcement that Japan had closed over 4,000 schools and kindergartens as around 170 confirmed cases of Swine Flu had been found around Kobe and Osaka. It seems that there are as yet no confirmed cases in Tokyo and of course authorities are hoping that they can contain it, although chances are it has already been rushed in by bullet train.
In the meantime, downunder, it is as if it’s all over, and people are starting to think that it was all overhyped and just another case of bird flu, where there was a brief panic followed by nothing.
It seems that there is so much confusion about Swine Flu that it makes it very difficult for the average Joe Citizen to know what to think. On one hand we hear stories that it may be more infectious than we thought, while on the other hand scientists are postulating that it is quite weak.
Traditionally the influenza virus targets babies and elederly people, both groups having weakened immunity and comparisons with the 1918-19 flu epidemic stop here, because the Swine Flu is killing people of all ages and seems to particularly attack people in the 25-40 age group. Noone knows why that is at this stage, but it is certainly another reason why people should be more vigilent, especially given that this is probably the age group that does the most international travelling and therefore more likely to either catch the virus, or to be carriers.
As a footnote, some people are thinking that because WHO hasn’t raised the alert to Phase 6, it can’t be too serious yet. The official move to Phase 6, which is specified as a pandemic is only based on the number of countries that it has been found in, not the severity of the illness. Officially a pandemic is when the disease is global, but given that it has now been found in 40 countries, many countries are asking WHO to announce it as a pandemic now.
While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.
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