The first domestic case of the new strain of Type A influenza was confirmed Saturday. The virus is believed to have a low virulence and its symptoms are rarely serious. However, it is still possible that the flu could spread.
Following is basic information that should be borne in mind to avoid infection.
Question: How does one become infected with the flu?
Answer: The virus is transmitted mainly via the mouth, nose and eyes by airborne droplets expelled by coughing and sneezing as well as by physical contact with people who have come into contact with the virus. The virus grows in the throat and respiratory passages.
Q: What are the symptoms?
A: The signs are basically the same as normal seasonal influenza–a sudden high fever, coughing, sneezing, fatigue and muscle aches, among other symptoms. A high ratio of people who are infected with the flu have suffered diarrhea.
The antiflu drugs Tamiflu and Relenza have been found effective against the flu. Most people infected exhibit relatively mild symptoms. However, those with chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes likely will manifest serious symptoms when infected. Young people in particular are likely to have serious symptoms.
Q: What should I do if I think I have the flu?
A: Initially, refrain from going to a medical institution. Instead, call the new flu consultation offices that have been set up in the health departments of each prefectural government office. The telephone numbers are listed on the Web sites of the Health, Welfare and Labor Ministry and local governments. If a telephone counselor says you might be infected, visit a designated medical institution as soon as possible.
Q: How should I travel to a designated medical institution?
A: To avoid spreading possible infection, avoid using public transportation such as trains, buses and taxis. Using a private car is recommended, but if this is not possible, a public health center might offer use of an official car, or in some cases, an ambulance.
Q: How should I avoid infection?
A: Wash your hands thoroughly. Rub soap between your palms and over the back of the hands and between the fingers. Also, pay attention to your nails, fingertips thumbs and wrists. Wash for at least 15 seconds.
Wash the faucet that you touched before cleaning your hands and rinse your hands with running water before wiping them dry with a clean towel.
Gargling is also recommended. Wearing a mask does not offer complete protection but is better than nothing; disposable masks made of nonwoven fabric are recommended. If an infected person wears a mask, it is thought this will help prevent the infection from spreading.
Q: If the flu spreads, will schools be closed?
A: This decision will be up to central and local governments or municipalities, according to the degree of the infection. If your child’s school is closed, you should not send them anywhere else, such as another school or cram school, or allow them to attend club activities. Children should stay at home until the school reopens.
It was reported that a measles epidemic broke out among university students–despite their university having been closed–because they had no symptoms at the time, and did not stay at home.
Please remember that schools are closed to avoid spreading infection.