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Flu mask shortage sparks home-made tips in Japan

Tokyo – As Japanese stores run out of face masks amid the swine flu outbreak, local authorities and bloggers are offering tips on making your own from kitchen paper, coffee filters and even sanitary pads.

The western city of Tatsuno now gives handy hints on its official website on fashioning a basic anti-flu mask from gauze, tissue and a pair of rubber bands.

"We had many enquiries from people on what to do after they found no masks in the stores," said Hiroyuki Kobayashi, a disaster management official with the city’s fire brigade.

The instructions, first posted last week, have since been used by the websites of other cities, Kobayashi told AFP by telephone.

A private hospital in the central prefecture of Niigata has meanwhile proposed a mask made from kitchen paper, while one blogger showed how to make a mask from textile and fine wire and one made with coffee filters.

The latest edition of Aera weekly, published by the Asahi Shimbun, carried an article in which a reporter tried on various types of homemade masks.

The coffee-filter mask "looks like Donald Duck" but brought an unexpected "sense of security", the article said.

Another blogger came up with a sanitary napkin version, pointing out that it was less difficult to breathe through than expected.

Japan has confirmed 342 cases of A(H1N1), according to the health ministry.

There have been no fatalities in Japan and the government has said the spread of infections appears to be easing.

Nonetheless, there has been a shortage of masks at drugstores in the hygiene-conscious nation where face masks have been part of everyday streetwear for decades.

AFP / Expatica