Japanese hospitals have turned away scores of people suffering from fevers, apparently worried that they had contracted swine flu, according to health officials.
No cases of the A(H1N1) virus have been confirmed so far in Japan.
But hospitals in Tokyo have told at least 170 people in the five days to Wednesday to instead go to specially established "fever centres," a Tokyo metropolitan government official said.
Among those turned away were a few who said they worked at Tokyo's Narita international airport, had visited a tourist spot frequented by foreigners, or had a foreign friend, the official said.
Some hospitals were "confused" about what to do and had turned down patients only because they had a fever, a national health ministry official said.
Hiroshi Ohi, who heads the Tokyo government's division on infectious diseases, said "those patients should have been examined" at the first hospital they contacted.
"We'll take measures to prevent this kind of response from spreading," he said, adding that hospitals may not have been fully prepared to cope with the situation during the just-finished Golden Week of public holidays.
Nearly 20 people in Japan have been suspected of having contracted the virus but later tested negative.
News reports said Thursday that a new case, an Osaka teenage girl suffering a high fever after she recently returned from Canada, was being tested for the new flu strain.