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Mystery ailment strikes seven; now in Okinawa

Date Posted: 2005-01-20

Seven elderly residents of a special senior citizens home in Hiroshima Prefecture are dead in the wake of a mysterious virus or disease believed spreading across the country.

Okinawa officials fear the virus is now in Okinawa.

Officials aren’t sure if it is food poisoning or an infectious disease becoming epidemic. The seven victims all were between 80~90 years of age.

An autopsy last week by Hiroshima Prefecture Police classified the deaths as by No. 10 virus. It is known to cause epidemics in winter from food or infectious disease.

In southern Okinawa, officials are reporting 20 people at a seniors citizens’ home began vomiting and suffered diarrhea this week. They also had high fevers. The Southern Welfare Health Center says “we did check them carefully, and it looks like it did not spread from foods. We are suspecting it came from a diaper change, or possibly from an outside source.”

The virus is now reported spreading across all of Japan. The Health Welfare Center says 12 prefectures are now feeling its effect, with 634 cases being reported. Okinawa has a total of 20 cases reported, but all are reported recovering.

Health officials are warning all visitors to nursing and senior citizen homes to protect themselves from virus. They encourage frequent washing of hands, keeping kitchens clean and disinfecting cups used in patient or resident rooms. When changing elderly residents’ diapers, they recommend using rubber gloves and masks.

The best advice being given, though, is to avoid visits to such facilities if at all possible.

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