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2014年10月30日 (木)

エボラ熱対策 国内発生に万全の態勢整えよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Foolproof measures needed in case Ebola patient is confirmed in Japan
エボラ熱対策 国内発生に万全の態勢整えよ

We must establish a system capable of swiftly responding to the Ebola virus whenever a patient is confirmed to be infected in Japan.

The Ebola scourge is continuing to spread in West Africa. The gravity of the problem is severe, as the disease has crossed into Europe and the United States. On Tuesday, the Japanese government decided at a meeting of relevant Cabinet ministers to implement thorough measures against the disease.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki, who is in charge of dealing with infectious diseases, to report on developments to the National Security Council. It is highly likely anxiety will spread throughout the nation if a person is confirmed to have the disease in Japan. It may hamper the nation’s economic activities.

In this sense, it is quite reasonable for the government to place priority on national security in dealing with the disease.

On Monday, a man who had stayed in Liberia arrived at Haneda Airport via Europe with symptoms of fever. He was transferred to a government-designated hospital and, fortunately, tested negative for the Ebola virus.

However, the case underscored that in an era when people frequently travel across borders, Japan may not be able to remain free of infectious diseases that erupt in Africa.

Relevant agencies and institutions were able to respond quickly to Monday’s case as the man reported that he had stayed in Liberia. In case of emergency, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry obtained the passenger list of the flight the man used. The inside of the plane that carried the man was sterilized.

However, if a plane carries a passenger who tests positive for Ebola, the possibility of other passengers and flight crew becoming infected with the virus cannot be ruled out. Concerns remain on how to deal with cases in which passengers do not reveal their travel history.

Improve medical system

The health ministry has begun beefing up quarantine inspections. At international airports, all passengers who arrive in Japan are asked whether they have stayed in countries hit hard by Ebola.

As Ebola’s incubation period is long — a maximum of 21 days — those who have been to such countries are required to report their health condition to quarantine stations twice a day until the incubation period expires, even if they do not show symptoms of Ebola. This measure must be thoroughly implemented.

Quarantine stations and immigration controls must keep in close contact and take every possible measure to contain Ebola at the port of entry.

Even if the government strictly reinforces quarantine inspections, there is a possibility a person with the Ebola virus will slip through quarantine. It is imperative for the government to improve the medical system in Japan.

Currently, there are 45 medical institutions across the nation designated to provide treatment against Ebola. However, nine prefectures do not have any such institution. These prefectures must establish a system to smoothly transfer patients to designated institutions. Many doctors and nurses have become infected with Ebola while treating patients in West Africa, the United States and Spain. Training is essential at medical facilities in Japan, such as how to put on and remove protective suits.

The number of people infected with Ebola has exceeded 10,000 in West Africa, and about 5,000 people have died from the disease. If the epidemic continues at the current pace, the worst-case scenario of patients reaching 1.4 million at the beginning of next year may become reality. The international community must join hands to contain Ebola infections in areas hit hard by the disease.

Needless to say, Japan should contribute in combating Ebola in such fields as medical assistance, as well as research and development of treatment methods.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 29, 2014) Speech


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