Last updated: August 20, 2009

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Swine flu hits Japan's sumo wrestlers

SWINE flu has hit sumo wrestling in Japan, where 12 fighters have become the latest sportsmen to contract the virus, already affecting several baseball and rugby players.

Six low-ranking sumo wrestlers, five from the same Tokyo stable, were found to be infected with the A(H1N1) virus yesterday, a spokesman for the Japan Sumo Association said. Six others earlier tested positive.

"But we will go ahead with exhibition sumo tournaments at the weekend," the official said. "We are working out measures against viral infections."

According to media reports, sumo wrestlers and officials will be asked to wear surgical masks and refrain from shaking hands with supporters, although the fighters will not wear the masks in the ring.

Fans will have to disinfect their hands before entering the sumo arena. 

The Japanese baseball club Nippon Ham Fighters said it would test all its members for swine flu after two players and a coach were infected.

Six other players who were also showing flu symptoms had been treated with medication and separated from other team members at a local hotel.

A number of rugby players from two universities - Waseda and Kanto Gakuin - were also found infected last week at their summer training camps in the mountain resort of Sugadaira, northwest of Tokyo, press reports said.

They cancelled their training matches, the reports said.

Japan's government warned that a "full-fledged epidemic" of swine flu may have started after reporting the country's third death in five days linked to the virus.

Authorities believe tens of thousands of people have caught the virus which first entered the island nation in May, although they say they have seen no sign of it mutating to become more deadly.


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