National

Authorities move ahead with plans to disclose info on suspected Ebola cases

Kyodo

Authorities are moving ahead with plans to disclose details on individuals suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus, and the flight numbers of aircraft they boarded, once their blood samples are sent for testing at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, health and transport ministry officials said.

Information that will be made public includes gender, symptoms, countries they visited, any record of contact with Ebola victims abroad and the prefecture where they live, as well as flight details and the number of crew and passengers aboard, the officials said on Tuesday.

In cases involving non-Japanese, the authorities will also disclose their nationality.

On Friday, Transport minister Akihiro Ota announced the central government was considering disclosing such information. Officials have been discussing how to make relevant details public in the wake of an Ebola scare last week involving a Canadian man in his 40s who came to Japan after spending time in Liberia, one of the nations in West Africa hit by the outbreak.

The man was taken to a hospital and was tested for infection after arriving at Tokyo’s Haneda airport from Liberia via London. His test results were negative and he was discharged last Thursday.

Releasing any data will be a departure from the health ministry’s previous policy of withholding all information on individuals until authorities conclude they are indeed infected with Ebola.

As part of efforts to step up measures to combat Ebola, health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki said in the Upper House that all 47 prefectures need to be prepared to deal with the deadly disease.

“We must be proactive in coordinating with local governments to ensure that all prefectures are equipped” with institutions that can accept and treat patients, Shiozaki said.

Currently, nine prefectures — Aomori, Akita, Miyagi, Ishikawa, Kagawa, Ehime, Oita, Miyazaki and Kagoshima — do not have medical institutions designated for infectious diseases, including Ebola. Aomori, Miyagi and Oita are moving toward building such facilities.

Medical institutions designated to handle infectious diseases are required to have specialized capabilities, including equipment to sterilize waste, and special exhaust and drain systems to contain pathogens. It is up to each prefecture to designate which institutions qualify.

If individuals are suspected of Ebola infection in prefectures without designated facilities, they will be transported to neighboring prefectures that have such institutions.