Taiwan and Japan on High Alert Amid a Measles Outbreak

Taiwan and Japan on High Alert Amid a Measles Outbreak

The spread of this bout of measles, a highly contagious respiratory disease, has been traced back to a Taiwanese flight attendant who flew to Okinawa.

The health authorities in Taiwan and Okinawa, Japan are on high alert as a measles outbreak unfolds.

In Taiwan, there are 22 confirmed cases as of Saturday, 21 April. This is the highest number of measles cases in nine years. More than 3,500 people in Kaohsiung have been quarantined after coming into contact with measles patients, while an infection cluster in a major hospital has led to 980 people being monitored in Taipei.  

In Okinawa, on the other hand, at least 67 people have tested positive so far. The disease has also been reported in Nagoya, one of Japan’s most populous cities. Previously, in 2015, Japan was declared free of measles by the World Health Organization as infections resulting from the indigenous (not imported) virus had not been confirmed for three years.

The connection between these two destinations is a Taiwanese male flight attendant in this 30s who contracted the virus in Thailand. The Tigerair Taiwan employee was diagnosed on 20 March, but before that, he had already infected two other cabin crew on a flight to Okinawa. The airline has already been fined by the Kaohsiung Department of Heath for allowing the flight attendants to work after displaying symptoms of measles.

This disease is spread through contact with an infected person’s nasal secretions or saliva, facilitated via a sneeze or a cough. As measles is airborne, it is highly infectious. The symptoms include high fever and widespread rash. Measles can be fatal for infants and toddlers, and may also lead to miscarriages.

Health officials in Taiwan are encouraging people to see a doctor should they exhibit the said symptoms. In Japan, the health ministry is urging the public to get a vaccination, especially since the country’s Golden Week, a national holiday and a peak travel season, is approaching. In line with this, the Okinawa prefectural government has also issued a warning for visitors to get a vaccination prior to their trip.

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