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Japan jolted by swine flu fears -

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PETER CAVE: In Japan, authorities say the number of people infected with swine flu has soared to
nearly 300 and for the first time the virus has been discovered in the world's largest urban
environment - greater Tokyo.

Many of those infected are high school students and in response 4,400 schools have been closed. In
a country where hygiene is taken extremely seriously, the ballooning number of swine flu cases is
causing deep concern.

North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy reports from Tokyo.

(Sounds from soccer match)

MARK WILLACY: Usually at Gamba Osaka's home games their football-mad supporters are swathed in the
team colours of dark blue and black. But tonight the crowd is a sea of white. Every one of the
thousands of spectators is wearing a face mask.

(Fan speaking.)

"I'm happy to obey the rules and wear a mask," says this Osaka fan. "I'd prefer to put one on than
miss the game," he says.

(Second fan speaking.)

"I'm more worried about catching the swine flu on the train than here at the stadium," says another

Osaka is where many of Japan's swine flu cases have been discovered. The other hot spot is Kobe.
This week the temperature soared to 30 degrees so donning a face mask is sweaty business.

(Woman speaking.)

"It's so hot," says this woman, "so I don't relish wearing a face mask at all," she says.

(Man speaking.)

"Well we need to wear a face mask," says this man. "How else can we ward off the flu?"

With nearly 300 cases confirmed in and around Kobe and Osaka, authorities knew it was only a matter
of time before the virus found its way to greater Tokyo whose 36-million residents make it the
world's most populous urban sprawl.

(Official speaking.)

"I can report that the Tokyo Government has confirmed its first case of swine flu," says this
official. "The infected person is a 16-year-old girl from Tokyo," he says.

Media reports say the teenager caught the virus on a trip to New York. And every evening the
national news bulletin has devoted 20 minutes to covering this story, and every night it shows the
same ominous image of the microscopic flu virus.

After the announcement that the virus had hitched a ride to Tokyo this reporter was travelling home
on the train last night when a young man, visibly unwell, hopped on board. Red around the eyes and
with a hacking cough, the young man caused near panic as commuters fled to the other end of the
carriage. One man in a suit even covered his face with his newspaper and slunk away.

This is a society in which personal hygiene and potentially dangerous bugs are treated with an
almost obsessive importance.

(Man speaking.)

"I thought it was only a matter of time before the swine flu reached Tokyo," says this man. "Now I
have to protect myself."

(Woman speaking.)

"I'll now I have to start wearing a mask," says this woman. "I've been avoiding that until now."

(Second man speaking.)

"Hopefully this outbreak doesn't spread any further," says this man.

With the virus spreading steadily through Japan already, that may be a forlorn hope.

This is Mark Willacy in Tokyo for The World Today.