An anti-vaccine convention centered Japan's outbreak after 49 attendees contracted the airborne disease last year.
Japan is struggling with the country’s worst measles outbreak in over a decade with more than 170 new cases diagnosed since the beginning of this year, Japan’s national media outlet, NHK, reports.
A religious, anti-vaccination congregation, Kyusei Shinkyo, is at the center of the rising number of cases. The organization promotes the purification of body and spirit, alleging that medicines are “harmful” to the body. However, following a workshop last year in the town of Mie, some 49 attendees contracted measles and were pivotal to the current outbreak, the religious group admitted in an apologetic statement published in January.
“Many of the patients were young and they did not receive enough shots, maybe due to their parents’ philosophy, and the outbreak spread at their meeting,” said Dr. Masaya Yamato, an associate of Osaka’s Rinku General Medical Center.
In an online statement, Kyusei Shinkyo leaders said, “Given the unexpected situation, we will follow the health care center’s advice to get vaccine shots for measles or other highly infectious diseases so that we don’t cause concern to others.”
The measles is a highly contagious airborne disease and can cause pneumonia, blindness, severe diarrhea, and — in some cases — death. Up to two children of every 1,000 die after contracting the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Japan’s health ministry is urging medical centers to implement preventative measures and families to vaccinate their children immediately.
Katherine O’Brien, director of the World Health Organization’s immunization, vaccines and biologicals, told reporters, “Our data are showing that there is a substantial increase in measles cases. We’re seeing this in all regions. We’re having outbreaks that are protracted, that are sizeable and that are growing. This is not an isolated problem.”
Over 9,000 cases and 146 measles-related deaths were registered in the Philippines within the first six weeks of 2019, its National Department of Health said.
Vaccine-skepticism, poverty, conflict, and poor access to adequate healthcare have contributed to a 50 percent increase in measles across the region, the WHO said in a report earlier this month.