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The national measles epidemic continued to spread as it was announced Tuesday that 68 people aged 15 and older contracted the disease in the week ended May 20 — the highest figure seen since the government began its weekly measles survey in 1999, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases said Tuesday.

“Continued alert is required as the area (of the epidemic) seems to be expanding, although it is likely that the epidemic will peak before long,” an institute official said.

There have been more than 280 measles infections this year.

The epidemic has been spreading mainly among people in their teens and 20s. Several major universities in the Kanto region, which is producing most of the cases, have canceled virtually all classes.

By prefecture, Tokyo had the most patients for the latest reporting week at 21, followed by eight in Miyagi, seven in Kanagawa, and five each in Saitama and Hokkaido, the institute said. The survey covered patients 15 or older at about 450 medical institutions nationwide.

Total measles patients for the year reached 286 as of May 20, the second-highest since 2001, when 368 cases were recorded by that date, the institute said.

In the Kanto area, 116 people got measles in Tokyo, compared with 28 in Kanagawa Prefecture and 21 in Saitama Prefecture.

In other regions, there were 25 patients in Miyagi Prefecture, 10 in Nagano Prefecture and nine in Hokkaido.

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