Japan confirmed its first cases of swine flu in three people who arrived in Tokyo from the U.S., a quarantine official said Saturday.
The patients, who had been traveling in Canada, were among about 390 passengers that arrived in Tokyo's Narita International Airport on a flight from Detroit on Friday, an airport quarantine official said on condition of anonymity, citing department policy. They were quarantined after showing flu symptoms, and tested positive in a primary test on board, the official at the Narita Airport Quarantine said. They are recovering at a hospital near the airport.
The two teenage male students and the teacher in his 40s had visited Canada's Ontario province on a home stay program since last month with about 30 other students, and returned to Tokyo via Detroit on a Northwest Airlines flight, Health and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe said in a televised news conference. The three participated in various programs hosted by a local high school in the town of Oakville since April 24. It was not immediately known if they were exposed to any swine flu cases during the trip.
They tested positive for the influenza A virus, and later confirmed positive for the swine flu H1N1 strain in a DNA test at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
Forty-nine other passengers who returned to Japan on the same flight and seated near the patients have been taken to a facility near the airport, where they will be monitored for 10 days. Masuzoe said the government was compiling addresses of the other travelers on the same flight to be able to respond quickly to people who may get sick.
"There are limitations to what we can do, but we will continue to monitor the situation and strengthen or relax such measures as needed," he said.
Japan has had tight quarantine control at the nation's main international airports, mobilizing hundreds of officials and doctors since last month in an attempt to prevent any cases of the disease. Masuzoe said that the effort paid off, but added that the government must be vigilant to keep the disease from spreading within Japan.
Japan had previously been free of swine flu while the virus spread to several countries in Asia including Hong Kong and South Korea.
A total of 44 people have died of the flu strain in Mexico, the epicenter of the disease, and two in the U.S. since the outbreak began last month.
In Canada, a total of 242 cases of swine flu have been confirmed, nearly all have been mild, but a woman in her 30s died at a hospital in Alberta last month.