A health ministry task force has compiled a report recommending that smallpox, botulism, tularemia and other illnesses should be added to a list of infectious diseases subject to special government measures to cope with possible bioterrorism.
Diseases on the list require careful monitoring by authorities and may involve measures such as forced hospitalization and halting traffic in outbreak areas, officials of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.
The microorganisms that cause the diseases can be used as biological weapons.
The current law emphasizes preventing natural outbreaks of infectious diseases. It does not require doctors to report instances of the three diseases because they are unlikely to cause epidemics when they occur naturally.
But the ministry wants to add them to the list amid heightened global fears of bioterrorism.
Smallpox, for example, can be spread through the air and has a fatality rate of 20 percent to 50 percent. Under the revised law, it would be classified as one of the most deadly diseases, along with the Ebola virus and plague, according to the officials.
The ministry plans to submit to the Diet this fall an amendment based on the task force’s report, they said.
In order for the government to detect outbreaks, the report suggests requiring doctors to report cases of people being infected with smallpox, tularemia or botulism, in addition to such diseases as influenza and HIV.
The revised law would also enable the government to forcibly decontaminate areas and treat individuals exposed to anthrax, they said.
Anthrax is not on the current disease action list because it is rarely transmitted from person to person naturally.