BEIJING — China confirmed its first case of A/H1N1 swine flu Monday and said it was attempting to quarantine all the passengers who had flown with the sick man aboard a flight from Tokyo.
The patient, identified only as a 30-year-old with the surname Bao, is a university student in the U.S., Chinese health officials said. He flew from St. Louis via St. Paul, Minnesota, to Tokyo before boarding Northwest Airlines flight NW029 to Beijing Saturday. He then took an internal flight to Chengdu, the capital of western China’s Sichuan province.
About 120 of the 143 passengers on the flight from Tokyo have been contacted, including several dozen foreign nationals. So far, none are known to have symptoms, but the officials said they were “persuading them to take quarantine measures.” It was unclear how many are already in quarantine.
Chinese medical authorities said that 130 of 150 passengers on the domestic flight with the sick man also were put in quarantine.
The patient was first suspected of having the flu after checking into a hospital on Sunday. By Monday, health authorities said they had confirmed the swine flu. China has developed its own rapid flu-detection kits, officials said. Mr. Bao appears to be recovering, Chinese health officials said.
In Hong Kong, authorities on Friday lifted a quarantine that had kept nearly 300 guests and employees in a hotel for a week after coming into contact with a Mexican traveler infected with the influenza. Other passengers in some 19 provinces across China who had traveled with him were also released from.
China, which had been criticized for its handling of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2003, has reacted aggressively this time to isolate any cases. But it has been accused of unfairly targeting some foreign citizens.
Overall, health officials around the world have confirmed 4,694 cases, the World Health Organization said Monday on its Web site, though thousands of other cases are suspected.
The WHO recommends isolating and putting under medical observation anyone in close contact with a confirmed flu case, but leaves up to individual countries the details of implementation. The organization on Sunday said 49 people — 45 in Mexico, two in the U.S. and one each in Canada and Costa Rica have died of confirmed cases of the flu. Washington state health officials have confirmed a third U.S. fatality. (The WHO tends to lag behind current data, but its figures are considered more authoritative.)
Elsewhere, a 32-year-old Dutch woman who arrived in Indonesia over the weekend is suspected of having A/H1N1 and has been placed in isolation at a hospital on the island of Bali, the state news service Antara said. And Singapore’s Ministry of Health lowered its alert level amid signs the flu virus is milder than originally feared.
Taiwan’s two positive flu cases were disclosed as false alarms hours later. Early Monday morning, health officials there backtracked and said the patients had tested negative after all