Information gathering, border control measures must not be neglected

Reports of infectious diseases other than COVID-19 have been emerging in various countries amid the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Although the situation has not yet become serious in Japan, it is vital to remain vigilant.

Monkeypox, characterized by a rash similar to that of smallpox, is spreading in Western nations. In 1958, a virus was discovered in monkeys in a laboratory in Northern Europe. Squirrels and rats in Africa are believed to be the main source of infections. Humans can also become infected if they come into contact with bodily fluids of these animals, such as through a bite.

It is said that monkeypox can spread from person to person through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. But the reason for the current outbreak is unclear.

Although no cases have been confirmed in Japan at this stage, it is important for thorough border control measures to be established, such as implementing quarantine steps for people entering from countries with a large number of cases, before Japan resumes the entry of foreign tourists in a full-fledged manner.

The government should also take all possible measures to prepare for the possibility of an influx of monkeypox into Japan. Smallpox vaccines are said to be effective against monkeypox. However, smallpox was eradicated in 1980 and routine vaccinations were discontinued in Japan in 1976, so there are concerns that younger generations may not be immune to monkeypox.

Countries have secured smallpox vaccines as a countermeasure against bioterrorism, and Japan has also made progress with the production and stockpiling of the vaccines. It will be necessary to take this opportunity to reexamine the stockpiles, among other measures.

Acute hepatitis in children is also prevalent. Following an announcement in Britain, the World Health Organization (WHO) called on countries to submit reports, and suspected cases were confirmed in many countries, including Japan. Viruses common in people with hepatitis have not been detected and the cause of the outbreak is unknown.

Symptoms include jaundice, diarrhea and vomiting. In other countries, some patients have died or had liver transplants. In addition to being plausibly linked to the adenovirus, a known cause of colds and gastroenteritis, COVID-19 aftereffects have also been mooted as a possible cause of acute hepatitis in children, but there is no definitive evidence.

In Japan, there have been no deaths linked to the disease and few cases of adenoviruses have been detected. Severe acute hepatitis in children is seen every year. It is essential to conduct specialized examinations to determine if there are any factors that contributed to the onset of symptoms that are different from those of conventional hepatitis.

It is said that both monkeypox and hepatitis are unlikely to spread as rapidly as the coronavirus through dining in groups, among other situations. There is no need to be overly concerned, but it is vital to actively take antivirus steps, such as washing hands, and to see a doctor immediately if any worrisome symptoms appear.

The coronavirus pandemic has made everyone realize how frightening infectious diseases can be. The government, experts and medical institutions also need to work together to collect and analyze information on monkeypox and acute hepatitis and disseminate it appropriately to prevent anxiety from spreading among the public.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 2, 2022)