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Suspected new flu case proves to be false alarm

With public concern growing over the possibility that a new strain of type A influenza might enter Japan, there was relief Friday evening that the nation's first suspected case in Yokohama was confirmed as a seasonal flu strain.

National and local governments had stepped up preparations to prevent the spread of the new virus ahead of the announcement.

A male high school student was suspected of having contracted the virus, but after further tests, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said he did not have the new strain, which has been spreading around the world. The boy had complained of symptoms including fever, coughing and excessive phlegm since returning from a school trip to Canada last Saturday.

On Thursday, he tested positive for influenza virus A in preliminary tests conducted at a local hospital, raising the prospect that he might be the first person in Japan to have contracted the new strain of H1N1 influenza A. Following the results, the Yokohama City Institute of Health conducted a polymerase chain reaction test on the boy to analyze the genetic makeup of the detected virus, which also proved inconclusive.

The health ministry then sent samples taken from the boy to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo for analysis.

The test results showed that the student had been infected with A-type Soviet strain of influenza virus, the ministry said.

The student was isolated at Yokohama Municipal Citizen's Hospital designated as a medical institution in charge of infectious disease treatment under the Infectious Diseases Law, where he was kept apart from other patients.

Meanwhile, A Japanese woman who tested positive Thursday for influenza A in a preliminary examination conducted on board an airplane that arrived from the United States was later found to be infected with the Hong Kong strain of type A flu, not the new strain of flu, the health ministry said Friday.

The result came from a genetic test. The 25-year-old woman arrived at Narita Airport on Thursday afternoon on a Northwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles.

(May. 2, 2009)
AP News
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