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2014/JANUARY/21 It is a bit cold outside, and it is influenza season again. The number of patients reached just over 660,000 nationwide last week (Jan 13th-19th), and the peak should arrive during the next 2 weeks.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry says that Okinawa, Miyazaki, Oita and Fukuoka (all prefectures on the southern island of Kyushu), are the hardest-hit areas, but across Japan some 700 schools were closed last week as a precaution, including schools in the Kanto region (Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama). It is not necessary to avoid or defer non-essential travel, however due caution is advised. If you are visiting Tokyo and are able to avoid traveling on public transport during peak hours, please do so.
There is a general shortage of flu vaccines at the moment due to high demand, so if you are enrolling in courses next month or for March, please get your vaccinations before you come to Japan. It is usually best to get the vaccinations 3-6 weeks prior to travel. It is also important to check the fine print of your travel insurance as part of your preparations.
In terms of virus strains, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases is reporting that about 50% of the patients are treated for the type-A (“Hong Kong”) virus, and about 30% for H1N1 (“swine flu”), accounting for about 30 percent. Just ask your doctor.
If you are already in Japan, the usual countermeasures are to avoid getting close to anyone with flu symptoms, wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, and wear a face mask on trains or buses etc. Face masks are currently available in almost any convenience store, in addition to pharmacies, and are also useful if you suffer from hay fever allergies.
More info and updates are available here: