The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is calling on children and the elderly to take extra precautions to guard against a virulent strain of the influenza virus that is currently spreading throughout Japan.
Reported cases of the virus, which is sometimes known as Hong Kong flu, are currently on the increase in the Tokai area, NHK reported. In the second week of January, the average number of reported cases per medical institution rose to 23.82 in Gifu Prefecture, 22.63 in Aichi Prefecture, and 21.92 in Mie Prefecture, the ministry said.
The ministry added that the Hong Kong flu strain accounted for 90% of cases recorded since Dec 5, and that reports of the swine flu virus had dramatically decreased. It added that the Hong Kong strain poses a particular danger to young children and the elderly.
The ministry said that it expects reported cases of the virus to peak in the first half of next month and called upon children and the elderly to take extra care to wash their hands thoroughly and to wear surgical face masks in an attempt to minimize the spread of the disease.
The Hong Kong Flu pandemic of 1968 and 1969 killed up to 750,000 humans and was caused by Avian influenza virus H3N2. The virus's measured resistance to the standard antiviral drugs amantadine and rimantadine in humans increased to 91% in 2005.© Japan Today