Japan is currently battling its worst measles outbreak in a decade, authorities said. Local authorities across the nation are scrambling to contain the spread of measles, as health experts are reporting the highest number of cases in a decade for this time of year.
As of Feb. 10, the number of measles cases in Japan totaled 167, with patients reported in 20 of the nation’s 47 prefectures, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) said on Feb. 19.
Mie Prefecture recorded the highest number of patients with 49, followed by Osaka with 47 and Aichi with 17. Tokyo was fourth with 11 cases.
Health experts are calling on the public to get vaccinated against measles, an airborne virus that spreads even through sneezing and coughing.
In a rare step to help contain the spread of the disease, some local authorities alerted the public of the transportation routes taken by patients.
Many of the cases involved people returning from overseas having contracted the disease abroad.
The number of measles cases is spiking globally, and the growing number of people are expected to visit Japan from overseas for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
The high numbers in Mie Prefecture were triggered by an outbreak at a training workshop of a local religious group, leading to widespread infections among the participants, their families, hospitals and schools since Jan. 7.
In Osaka, staff workers and customers were infected with measles at the Abeno Harukas, a skyscraper commercial complex, bringing the number of confirmed cases at the site to 21 as of Feb. 19.
Measles cases are also spreading in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
In Kanagawa Prefecture, seven people have reported the onset of measles as of Feb. 14, exceeding the total number of patients in the prefecture in 2018.
The patients include an individual who had traveled to the Kansai region and contracted measles.
In Ibaraki Prefecture, three boys who entered Japan from the Philippines and elsewhere exhibited measles symptoms as of Feb. 17. Two of the boys visited supermarkets and restaurants after being infected.
On Feb. 14, the Osaka prefectural government called on the public to be vigilant to avoid being infected with measles, disclosing the trains that carried a woman in her 40s infected with the disease.
She traveled between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka stations on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line on Feb. 8 and 10.
On Feb. 15, the Chiba city government announced that a man in his 20s returning from the Maldives developed the measles. Officials also disclosed which train lines the man took and at what times he boarded them.