FACTBOX: Japan's plans to tackle spread of H1N1 flu

Fri Aug 21, 2009 3:40am EDT
 
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(Reuters) - Japan said this week the new H1N1 influenza virus has reached epidemic proportions in the country, but it is still lagging in vaccine production.

The new virus, which emerged in March, has been declared an international pandemic and the World Health Organization predicts a third of the global population will eventually become infected.

Although most cases are mild to moderate, H1N1 appears to be about as deadly as the more common seasonal flu, which kills some 10,000 people a year in Japan and up to 500,000 globally.

Following are key facts about the new flu in Japan, which could become one of the first challenges for the winners of an August 30 national election.

SPREAD OF H1N1 FLU

-- Japan had confirmed some 5,000 cases of the H1N1 flu as of late July, when it changed its method of tracking the outbreak. Three have died so far, with the first fatality confirmed last Saturday.

-- The government now monitors group contagion and hospitalized cases. In the week of August 12-18, 86 patients were hospitalized because of the H1N1 flu, with more than 70 percent of them aged below 20.

-- Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases said on Friday that the new flu has reached epidemic proportions in Japan after the number of flu patients reported by about 5,000 core medical institutions rose above 1.00 per facility, which is Japan's yardstick for the start of a flu epidemic. The benchmark often rises above 1.00 with seasonal flu.

-- Japan last month confirmed its first case of a genetic mutation of the H1N1 flu virus that shows resistance to antiviral flu drug, Tamiflu, made by Switzerland's Roche AG. But the two main antiviral drugs, Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithkline's Relenza, have helped most patients.   Continued...