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Stowaway mice in containers bring alien germs into ports

Date Posted: 2003-07-18

Rats and mice hiding in shipping containers have brought several alien germs from foreign countries into Japan. Thatís the finding if a Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare study conducted by Professor Yasuhiro Yoshikawa of the University of Tokyo over a period of three years from 1998 through 2001.

The study marked the first time ever that Japanese authorities tried to check what germs the rodents that find their way into Japan-bound containers in foreign seaports carry in their bodies.

The story that covered 34 sea and airports across the country concluded that the mice carry antibodies of viruses of several diseases not previously present in Japan including LCM (lympholytic choriomeningitis) and hemorrhagic fever.

During the study, Yoshikawa's team captured some 2,300 rats and mice of six different species. Foreign-species mice were found in eight ports including Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, Tokyo, Yokohama and Kagoshima. All these ports are gateways to cargo bound for Okinawa.

The study concluded that although all ports have inspection and extermination programs against rodents, some of them still manage to survive inside the containers and get out when the containers are opened for unloading.

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