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Japan confirms 3 people have H1N1 flu, Australia reports 1st case

JAPAN today confirmed its first cases of H1N1 flu in three people who recently returned from Canada, even as the disease's spread appeared to slow in the rest of the world.

Australia has confirmed the country's first case of H1N1 flu, also known as swine flu, but the woman is no longer infectious and has a weak strain the virus

Japanese Health and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe said the three Japanese were quarantined upon arrival in Tokyo after testing positive in preliminary checks performed on all travelers flying from countries hit by the virus.

The three - a high school teacher in his 40s and two teenage boys - had been on a school trip to Canada. They were isolated and recovering at a hospital near Tokyo's Narita International Airport, officials said.

"I ask the people to stay calm," Masuzoe told a hastily called news conference televised live on national news.

The virus, which began its global spread from Mexico, has now been found in 30 countries, killed at least 47 people and sickened more than 3,100 worldwide.

The three were among about 390 passengers on a Northwest Airlines flight from Detroit that arrived yesterday.

The Japanese government has been collecting information and addresses on people returning from abroad to monitor possible illnesses.

It has also been sending in teams of hundreds of masked doctors to the nation's major airports to check passengers for signs of the illness.

But Masuzoe acknowledged it was unclear how effective his ministry would be in tracking the other passengers on that flight from Detroit because it included a number of tourists and non-Japanese whose personal information wasn't available.

"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 told reporters.

Public broadcaster NHK TV urged people who were aboard the flight to call a special telephone number for consultations. So far, 49 have been traced and taken to a facility near the airport to be monitored for 10 days, officials said.

The three diagnosed with the new flu strain had visited Canada's Ontario Province on a homestay program with about 30 other students, taking part in various programs hosted by a local high school in the town of Oakville since April 24.

A lab at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases confirmed they had H1N1 flu.

Japan had previously been free of the flu while the virus spread to China's Hong Kong and South Korea.

In Australia, Health Minister Nicola Roxon today said that test results on the New South Wales woman came back positive today from the World Health Organization laboratory in Melbourne.

"The strain of the flu has been identified in the sample but at a very low count," Roxon told reporters in Canberra. Queensland's chief health officer Dr. Jeannette Young also said the woman had tested "weak positive" for the disease.

The woman, who has not been identified, contracted the disease in late April while in the US but recovered before returning to Brisbane, Australia on Thursday, Roxon said. The woman arrived on Qantas flight QF16 from Los Angeles and identified herself to a nurse at the airport, she said.

"This is clearly a serious development but we are in a situation where the best medical advice seems to indicate that this person wouldn't be infectious," Roxon said.

The Queensland health department said in a statement that the woman was no longer infectious at the time of boarding her flight to Australia.

The woman - who began experiencing symptoms in the US on April 27 - was screened and swabbed at the airport, given a mask and is staying with her family in Brisbane awaiting test results.

Queensland Health said it will contact people from the flight sitting in the rows in front and behind the woman to see if any of them have flu-like symptoms.

Eighteen people in the country are still awaiting test results to determine if they have swine flu.


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