Comedian’s TB spreads disease fears

by Reiji Yoshida

Fear is quietly spreading in the entertainment world on the heels of a report that Haruka Minowa of the popular comedian duo Harisenbon has contracted tuberculosis.

After Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., to which the duo belong, made the announcement Monday, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government set up a help line for people worried about infection.

The popular pair almost daily spent hours with other well-known TV celebrities and occasionally made stand-up comedy appearances at theaters, Yoshimoto Kogyo said.

Pulmonary tuberculosis can be transmitted through aerial infection, such as when an infected person coughs.

“Please immediately see a doctor at a hospital or clinic if you have an extended coughing bout,” Yoshimoto Kogyo said in a statement.

The talent agency warned that anyone who saw the pair live from Dec. 1 to April 3 could have been infected.

Minowa, 29, has been hospitalized and will stop working for two months to undergo treatment, the company said.

Tuberculosis was considered one of the deadliest diseases in Japan before the war, although its occurrence has been greatly reduced thanks to modern medicine.

The health ministry said 25,311 new cases of TB were detected in Japan in 2007, a drop of 1,073 from the preceding year, and 2,188 patients died, down by 81 from 2006.