Zika virus infection in Kawasaki prompts aid of $1 million from Japan

Kyodo, Staff Report

A day after Japan confirmed its first Zika infection since a global alert over the disease, the nation has announced $1 million in emergency grants to four international institutions to help tackle the virus. The beneficiaries will include the World Health Organization.

Foreign Minister Fumio said Friday the government will also step up warnings to people ahead of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August and will reach out to Japanese nationals who are in Central and South America.

On Thursday, the health ministry said a male teenager in Kawasaki who spent 12 days in Brazil this month as a tourist has contracted the virus. It is Japan’s first case since an outbreak was detected in Latin America last year.

The nationality of the victim was not disclosed. The boy’s infection was confirmed by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Kawasaki Municipal Government.

A ministry official told reporters there is no concern that the virus will spread in Japan because mosquitoes are dormant in winter.

By raising alert levels and making it mandatory to report potential cases, Japan has beefed up efforts to keep the virus at bay since the WHO declared its spread overseas a global public health emergency on Feb. 1.

Three people were diagnosed with the Zika virus in Japan in 2013 and 2014 after returning from the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora and Thailand.

The infection announced Thursday was confirmed by testing at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The ministry said the teenager visited Brazil as a tourist from Feb. 9 and left last Saturday. He returned to Japan on Monday and visited a hospital in Kawasaki on Wednesday complaining of a fever and a rash. Although he had a fever of nearly 38 degrees on Saturday, a thermographic inspection at the quarantine station when he arrived in Japan failed to detect this, the ministry said.

It added, the boy no longer has a fever and is staying at home. None of his family members who traveled with him has developed symptoms.

While the Zika virus usually causes mild symptoms in men and women, such as skin rashes and headaches, it is suspected of causing abnormally small head sizes in newborn children, a condition called microcephaly, if contracted during pregnancy.

Brazil has seen a rapid increase in such cases.