Taiwan and Japan on alert following measles outbreak

photo: AFP/Daniel Mihailescu)

 

Taiwan and Japan authorities have urged locals and tourists to take added precautions following an outbreak of measles.

The outbreak has been traced to a 30-year-old male flight attendant with Tigerair Taiwan, according to local reports.

Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said in a press release on Mar 29 that he visited Thailand in early March before flying to the island of Okinawa in Japan where he was diagnosed and hospitalised.

The CDC said at least 22 Taiwanese have been tested positive for the highly infectious virus – the island’s highest number in nine years. Seven people contracted the disease abroad and 15 contracted it domestically, Taipei Times said.

More than 3,500 people in Kaohsiung city of southern Taiwan have been quarantined and another 980 people in Taipei are being monitored, following an outbreak at a major Hospital in New Taipei City.

The hospital declined to reveal the source of the outbreak, except to say that the first patient came from overseas.

Taipei Times also reported that Tigerair Taiwan has been slapped with a fine for allowing flight attendants to report for work despite them exhibiting symptoms of measles. The low-cost carrier faces a fine of between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000 (US$2,025 and US$10,130).

A flight steward and a stewardess in her 20s will also be fined for travelling after the onset of symptoms.

JAPAN URGES VACCINATIONS

In Japan, authorities have urged the public to be “fully vaccinated” against measles, following the outbreak in Okinawa and several cases in Nagoya.

As of Apr 20, 67 patients were confirmed to have been infected.

The Asahi Shimbun reported on Sunday that the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) has voiced concern that those travelling in Japan or abroad could be exposed to the disease during Golden Week from Apr 28 to May 6, one of the country’s busiest holiday seasons.

Researcher Keiko Taya was quoted as saying that there was a “possibility that the disease will spread due to the consecutive holidays”.

According to Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH), vaccination is the best way to prevent measles. The symptoms of measles generally surface one to two weeks after a person has been infected. Common symptoms include fever, cough, a runny nose, a skin rash as well as red and watery eyes.

MOH added that measles is spread by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing.

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