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Food poisoning sweeps Japan; 64 cases reported in Okinawa

Date Posted: 2007-01-08

Norovirus, a serious food poisoning virus, is wreaking havoc across Japan at a frequency rate more than five times stronger than a year ago.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare reports that 9,650 individuals have contracted the norovirus, which strikes the intestinal system, during the past six weeks. Officials say the prefectures all are aware of the norovirus dangers, which struck 17,137 people last year. The National Infection Laboratory says the situation is much worse, telling journalists their reports show 66,871 having contracted the food poisoning virus in recent weeks.

Medical officials say the current form of norovirus was worst in 2004, but that this year’s strain could surpass it. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and fever.

Okinawa is reporting 64 cases of norovirus, most centered in the southern islands of Miyako. The gastroenteritis outbreak has been confirmed in 19 patients and six staff members of the Miyako Health Center. Another seven cases are listed at a nearby medical facility for the handicapped.

Fifteen cases have been documented at Central Health Center on Miyako, while seven high school students were also taken ill.

None of the Okinawa cases are described as serious. The Prefecture is investigating what caused the norovirus to strike the southern islands. Preventive measures include frequent hands washing and careful hygiene.

The National Infections Laboratory says the norovirus is spreading at an alarming rate, after appearing to have peaked a week ago. The largest number of mainland Japan cases are centered in Fukuoka, while others are reported in Ehime, Saitama, Toyama, Miyagi, Yamaguchi, Tattri, Chiba and Kanagawa Prefectures. Health officials are issuing special warnings for the Kanto Plain area.
Food is the principal carrier for norovirus, but authorities say no cases of norovirus have been discovered in oysters.

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