Rise in Measles Cases Shows Need for Vigilance Not Only for COVID-19

Cases of measles have been confirmed one after another in Japan. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the spread of other infectious diseases has tended to be forgotten about, but vigilance must be maintained.

The number of measles patients this year reached 10 as of May, already exceeding the total for all of last year. The disease has also been spreading widely overseas. There was even a case of transmission aboard a Shinkansen train from a person who developed measles symptoms after returning from India.

The main symptoms of measles are a fever and rashes. Severe cases can be fatal. It is spread by droplets from coughing, direct contact and airborne infection. Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato called for precautions against the spread of measles at a press conference last month.

Since the measles virus is highly contagious, it is important that people with symptoms refrain from taking public transportation or engaging in other activities that could potentially transmit the virus to others.

COVID-19 has been downgraded to Category V under the Infectious Diseases Law, and the movement of people in Japan and abroad has increased. Awareness must be shared that the risk of a measles outbreak is increasing.

A worrisome aspect is the declining measles vaccination rate among young children. This is due to the fact that people have refrained from going to hospitals for vaccinations for fear of contracting the coronavirus. The central and local governments should carefully explain the need for measles vaccinations.

Many people are immune to the disease due to vaccination or previous exposure to the virus. However, adults who are not certain about their vaccination history should have their antibodies tested at a medical institution and consider vaccination if necessary.

Recently, there are no longer any restrictions on social activities related to COVID-19. Fewer people are wearing masks. Many people’s immune systems have been weakened by avoiding contact with others due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such circumstances have probably contributed to the spread of various infectious diseases.

Influenza is also showing an unseasonal outbreak. There have been many cases of large-scale transmission at school events. In educational settings, it is necessary to keep children as far away from each other as possible and to pay attention to indoor ventilation.

The number of cases of COVID-19 has also continued to increase recently, and there have been some cluster infections at medical institutions and other facilities.

It is important that each individual takes action to prevent the spread of infections. Basic measures such as frequent handwashing should be taken, as well as making sure to get adequate nourishment and sleep.

Cases of syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease, and mpox, also known as monkeypox, are also increasing in Japan, even though the latter has now abated overseas.

Individuals with suspicious symptoms should consult public health centers or medical institutions. The central and local governments should strengthen the dissemination of information on the correct way to deal with the situation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 13, 2023)