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New Measles Cases Spark Concern, Health Ministry Urges Caution

Highly infectious, measles causes high fever and rash and can be fatal in severe cases. The Japanese government is urging the public to get vaccinated.



Minister of Health Keizo Takemi urges caution during a press conference on March 8. (©Kyodo)

Concerns are mounting in Japan regarding the rise in measles cases, a disease currently affecting many countries worldwide. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare are urging the public to get vaccinated.

On February 20, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned that more than half of the world's nations are at risk of a measles outbreak in 2024. It urged countries to take immediate preventive measures.

Cases Confirmed in Tokyo and Kyoto

On March 11, a woman in her 20s in Tokyo was confirmed to have contracted measles. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Bureau of Public Health reported that the woman arrived at Kansai International Airport from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on February 24. Eight passengers on her flight have tested positive for the virus.

During a press conference on March 13 at the Prime Minister's Office, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi urged the public to get vaccinated against measles. (©Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

On March 7, she traveled from Shin-Osaka Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen's Nozomi 24 train, reaching Tokyo's Shinagawa Station at 1:45 pm. From 9 pm, she spent around two hours at a restaurant in Ginza before checking into a hotel. The next day, on March 8, she developed symptoms including a rash and a fever of 38ºC (100.4°F). She sought medical attention in Tokyo, where she was diagnosed with measles.

Additionally, Kyoto City's public health center reported on March 13 that it had identified a patient in the city infected with measles. The patient, a man in his 30s residing in Kyoto City, sought medical help due to worsening symptoms, including fever, which started on March 7. He tested positive on March 12. This marks the first confirmed case of measles in Kyoto City in 2024.

The health center reported that the man may have come into contact with an infected person at Kansai International Airport on February 24. Before exhibiting symptoms, he traveled by train from Toji Station in Kyoto to Kyobashi Station in Osaka on March 6.

An electron microscope image of the measles virus. (Provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Global Surge in Cases

During a press conference on March 8, Minister of Health Keizo Takemi said, "Measles has a very high infection rate, with approximately 1 in 1,000 people dying from it even in advanced countries. Vigilance is required." He expressed concern about the disease becoming widespread in Japan.

According to the health ministry, measles is an acute systemic infection caused by the measles virus. It transmits through the air, droplets, or contact. When individuals without immunity become infected, the disease is almost 100% likely to manifest. Once infected, immunity is said to last a lifetime. 

Symptoms typically appear about 10 days after infection, including fever, cough, and runny nose, resembling those of a cold. After 2 or 3 days of persistent fever, a high fever of over 39ºC (102.2°F) and a rash develop. Complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis can occur, leading to severe illness and death in some cases.


The WHO has revealed that the number of reported measles cases in the European Region, including Russia and Central Asia, surged to over 58,000 in 2023. This is a stark increase from 937 cases in 2022. The organization attributes this rise to decreased measles vaccination rates during the COVID-19 pandemic.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun
(Toshinari Nisumura contributed to the article.)

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