Measles Outbreak In Kaohsiung, Taiwan & Okinawa, Japan Linked To Same Tigerair Crew Member

Singaporean tourists are quickly abandoning plans to visit Southern Japan during Golden Week, thanks to a budding measles epidemic.

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A sudden measles outbreak in Okinawa, Japan has been declared – 67 patients have contracted the virus as of Friday (20 Apr).

Additionally, more than 3,500 people hailing from Kaohsiung, Taiwan have been quarantined after coming into contact with an infected Tigerair crew member.

This came after a fateful Tigerair budget carrier flight, where the crew member flew to Okinawa for a holiday between 17-19 Mar, and subsequently infected two of his colleagues.

Measles spread from Tigerair crew member in Taiwan

Tigerair Taiwan’s 30-year-old male flight attendant has been named as the source of the outbreak.

His infection was confirmed on 29 Mar, but he had already spread it to two other cabin crew members onboard a flight to Okinawa.

These two cabin crew – a 35-year-old male and 28-year-old female – continued to work until they were seriously ill, and received their measles diagnosis in early April.

An additional 980 citizens have been tracked, after Taoyuan’s major hospital was found to have housed another infection cluster.

Taiwan’s Count: 22 patients infected, 3,500 quarantined + 980 tracked.

Spreading in Japan From Okinawa To Nagoya

From Okinawa, Japan – a popular destination for Taiwanese tourists – the measles epidemic seems to be spreading towards Nagoya as well.

From 170 people cancelling spring season holidays, to cancelling classes — Okinawa schools are apparently trying to help contain the spread of the disease.

However, a Nagoya resident who had visited Okinawa was diagnosed on 11 Apr, after which a nurse caught the disease 10 days later.

Japan’s Count: 67 patients infected as of 20 Apr, at least 2 in Nagoya.

Hong Kong is alarmed

Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection has urged travellers to remain vigilant, and to consider vaccination to prevent the disease, as the government monitors the situation.

Measles symptoms

Perhaps what’s most worrying about the virus is that it has a 21-day incubation period, and is a highly contagious disease.

Symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Dry cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Skin rash resembling large, flat blotches

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Extremely dangerous for infants, toddlers and pregnant women, it could result in death or miscarriage if left untreated for too long.

Incubation period (after infection):

Day 1-14: Measles virus incubates, no visible signs or symptoms apparent.

Day 15-18: Measles begins with mild to moderate fever, persistent cough, runny nose, sore throat, and conjunctivitis.

Day 19-20: Acute illness and rash – small raised red spots, bumps in tight clusters resulting in splotchy red skin on face, ears and hairline.

Day 21-onwards: Rash spreads down arms, trunk, thighs and lower legs. Fever rises to 40-41°C.

Recovery: Measles rash recedes gradually from facial area to thighs and feet.

Most importantly, a measles patient remains contagious for about 8 days – 4 days before the rash occurs to 4 days after the rash appears.

Get a measles vaccination ASAP if you’re travelling there

If you’ve been on a Tigerair flight from Taiwan between 17 Mar to 19 Mar to Okinawa, and are currently experiencing fever or cough symptoms, it’s probably time to give your doctor a ring.

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As measles has a particularly long incubation period, it’s best to stay vigilant and warn your friends heading to these areas.

Featured image from Airline Ratings.