Measles forces Keio to shut down

Kyodo News

The measles epidemic sweeping the nation’s universities forced prestigious Keio University on Saturday to call off almost all of its classes, making it the latest Japanese university to take action over the outbreaks.

The epidemic is believed to have sickened hundreds of university students so far.

Keio has canceled all classes at four of its campuses — the Mita campus in Tokyo and the Hiyoshi, Yagami and Shonan Fujisawa campuses in Kanagawa Prefecture — until Friday after 34 students were confirmed infected with the contagious disease.

Keio said that it will basically prohibit students from entering the campuses during the period, adding that about 32,000 students will be affected by the decision.

The move came after other major universities, including Sophia University, Waseda University, Meiji University and Chuo University in Tokyo, as well as Kanazawa University in Ishikawa Prefecture and Hannan University in Osaka Prefecture, canceled some or all of their classes.

Hosei University and Ritsumeikan University followed suit on Saturday at some campuses, while Kyoritsu University of Pharmacy decided the same day to call off all classes until June 4 after two students became infected.

In addition, the outbreaks are spreading so quickly that it is becoming increasingly difficult to conduct antibody tests due to a shortage of testing reagents, according to health ministry and drug company officials.

The problem surfaced only a week after the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry called on hospitals across the country to make careful decisions about whether patients really need measles vaccinations to conserve dwindling supplies of the drugs.

The reagents are used in a popular antibody test called the HI method, which requires green monkey blood cells.

SRL Inc., the country’s top testing company for measles, and most similar firms have told medical institutions they need to suspend antibody tests for the disease because it is difficult to secure enough green monkey blood cells.

“We are now trying to grasp the real situation,” said Toshihiko Takeda, a health ministry official in charge of the matter.