Person in a hazmat suit on a planeJapan is taking the threat of H1N1 very seriously, as evidenced by the new process arriving international flights must undergo.  I experienced this first hand when I went to Japan a few weeks ago to attend my niece’s wedding.

As I prepared myself for the flight from the U.S. to Japan, H1N1 was not something that I was thinking about.  However, the Japanese officials were focused on it and were hoping to prevent the virus from invading Japan by stopping it at the airport.  For this reason all incoming flights were rescheduled in order to arrive 30 minutes earlier than planned so that health examiners would have time to scan every arriving passenger for signs of the flu.

Once our flight landed in Tokyo, we were told to remain in our seats.  Then seven health examiners awkwardly stepped onto the plane.  Each one was dressed in a plastic suit and was wearing a protective cap, goggles, a mask and gloves (they looked like spacemen).  They walked up and down the aisles with a body temperature scanning device stopping to analyze each passenger by aiming the device at them to check for elevated temperatures indicating a fever.

If anyone had shown signs of a fever, EVERYONE on the flight would have been quarantined in a local hospital for one week.  I was stressed for the entire thirty minutes these men spent scanning the passengers, worried that I was going to miss the wedding!  Fortunately, no one had a fever, and we were allowed to exit the plane. Three days later the health officials called me to see if I had a fever, which I did not (but I did have a great time at the wedding!).

The Japanese actively work to contain potential outbreaks, but I have heard from family members in Japan that the officials are now loosening up on the inspection process.


About The Author

Setsko Takase is a native of Japan who has been living in the United States for many years. She teaches Japanese and has a travel agency that specializes in coordinating travel for Japanese physicians visiting the United States. Ms. Takase assists these physicians with all aspects of settling in to American culture. She also works with area universities to organize medical conferences for Japanese and American physicians.

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