Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Measles warning issued for Japan

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

The Department of Health, alerted by a measles epidemic in Japan, has advised travelers not to take infants under 12 months old to Japan, or, if they must, to first have them inoculated against the disease.

Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases said reports from hospitals and medical clinics around Japan show that as of Feb. 3, 1,164 people have been infected with measles, mostly in and around Tokyo.

The second largest group was in Fukuoka Prefecture, followed by a grouping in Hokkaido.

Lin Ting (林頂), deputy director-general of the Centers for Disease Control, said the centers were monitoring the developing epidemic in the neighboring country, but that most Taiwanese older than 12 months should enjoy immunity against the disease.

Lin said that Taiwan began carrying out mandatory inoculations against measles in 1978. Since 1992, all children have been inoculated with two doses of MMR, a combined vaccine for rubella, measles and mumps, he said.

More than 95 percent of people under the age of 31 have been inoculated, he said. In comparison, Japan has adopted a more "conservative" policy on inoculations, with people "recommended" instead of being "obliged" to get measles shots.

Japan also provided only one shot of MMR before April 2006, Lin said, adding that the practice was widely considered a major factor that contributed to an epidemic in eastern Japan last year.

Symptoms of measles include a fever, coughing, a runny nose and conjunctivitis. Patients are also prone to otitis media, pneumonia and encephalitis, Lin said.

The centers' recommended immunization schedule for infants states that children at or above the age of 12 months should receive a chicken pox vaccine, and those at or above 15 months should receive the MMR vaccine.

Lin suggested that parents with infants under 12 months old not travel with their children to Japan. If they must travel, he advised those with infants above nine months to ensure the child has one shot of MMR vaccine two weeks before traveling to allow the body time to develop the immunity.

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