Tuesday, 19 May 2009

New Flu

Last week it was reported that if any Japanese presented themselves with flu-like symptoms at a hospital they were asked if they had been abroad or if they had any foreign friends. If they answered yes, they were turned away and told to go to one of the new fever clinics. Consequently, sick Japanese friends had to deny knowing me. This week I felt vindicated and rather smug when the "New Flu" finally arrived, brought in by a Japanese tourist returning home from the USA.

I popped into several shops today to buy masks - not because I believe they work but because my university might ask us to wear them - only find that they had all sold out. And I heard several people asking for them. So I only have my antibacterial handwash which I use regularly anyway because I have to handle students' papers, some of which are filthy.

As a university lecturer who has been teaching for over 10 years I'm not too worried about New Flu. Teachers regularly come into contact with so many students who cough, spit, sneeze and hand in germ-covered term papers we tend to build up a strong resistance to bugs. It is said that in the first five years teachers get every bug going. After that they become super-human.

I tried wearing cotton gloves on the subway last week but soon had to take them off to count my change at the station salad counter. Then I realised that unless the government planned to start disinfecting money I was wasting my time.

My university has sent out a memo saying that if the New Flu comes to Tokyo, we will close. The students are already planning their vacations. I thought teachers might get time off too but I see that although the affected schools in central Japan closed, the teachers still have to go to work. So when the students return after seven days, the teachers will all be carriers and ready to infect the entire school.

Japan is a very crowded country full of workaholics who will go to the office no matter what. New Flu is going to spread fast via the buses, trains and subways.

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