World News

Millions in Japan affected as flu outbreak grips country

By Elizabeth Shim   |   Feb. 1, 2019 at 1:52 PM
Japan says more than 2 million people have been diagnosed with the flu, a record for the country. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI

Feb. 1 (UPI) -- The worst flu outbreak on record in Japan has affected millions of people, with many patients hospitalized or in critical condition, according to reports.

The total number of flu patients has surpassed 2.2 million across the country, and the infections have shown no signs of stopping, NHK reported Friday.

According to Japan's ministry of health labor and welfare, more than 5,000 hospitals and clinics were on average reporting 57 flu patients per institution. The number is an increase from the previous winter, when hospitals were reporting an average of 54 patients per institution.

Patients are on the rise, with 100,000 more people seeking medical attention in the week from Jan. 21 to 27, than the previous week. Thousands of flu patients have been hospitalized; of the more than 3,200 hospitalized patients, about half are 70 years of age or older, and 20 percent were identified as children under the age of 10. Some elderly patients have died, according to reports.

Some areas of Japan are more heavily affected than others, including Saitama, Niigata and Chiba Prefectures.

Tokyo hospitals were reporting higher than an average number of flu patients, with about 64 patients per institution.

Kyodo News reported the most common viruses were of a "type-A" strain that caused a pandemic in 2009, along with the "type-A Hong Kong strain."

Japan's health ministry has urged members of the public to frequently wash their hands or wear a mask when outdoors.

The country has tracked flu outbreaks since 1999.