Tokyo: Japan on Wednesday compiled countermeasures against the H7N9 strain of bird flu in the face of the rapid spread of the virus in China. Under the steps listed by a health ministry panel, prefectural governors will be authorized to recommend that patients or suspected patients be hospitalized and to impose restrictions on work.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry aims at introducing the measures in early May by revising government ordinances under the Infectious Disease Law and the Quarantine Law, ministry officials said.

Under the measures, patients or suspected patients who work in the hospitality or food industries will be ordered to stay away from their jobs to prevent the spread of infections. Those who refuse to follow such orders will face punishment.

Under the Infectious Disease Law, the government can designate infectious diseases as likely to seriously affect human health so it can introduce emergency measures without going through ordinary procedures. The panel proposed designating bird flu caused by the H7N9 virus as such a disease. Similar measures were applied in the past to combat the virulent H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus and the SARS virus.


The H7N9 virus has created havoc in China with the death toll rising to 21on Tuesday. The number of people infected so far is 104.

A team of experts from the World Health Organization over the weekend began investigating the origin and characteristics of the new strain of bird flu in China, which had not been detected in humans until last month.

China already has taken various measures to control the spread of the disease, including closing several markets where live poultry is sold in major cities around the country.

Also, the Chinese government last week ordered a halt in sales of wild birds to prevent the spread of the virus, and it prohibited direct contact between humans and animals at zoos.


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