• Kyodo

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Japan will recruit experts in infectious diseases to join the relief squads it sends overseas in response to major disasters, government sources said Sunday.

The move is aimed at involving the nation more deeply in measures to counter cross-border threats presented by diseases such as Ebola and MERS. It is prompted by the recent Ebola virus flare-up in West Africa and the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus in South Korea.

Japan’s disaster relief program is mainly carried out by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and involves the dispatch of teams comprising police officers, firefighters, doctors and other experts depending on the nature of the calamity.

JICA now plans to begin soliciting doctors and nurses with expertise in infectious diseases to join overseas missions. A JICA official said it would help Japan prepare for possible pandemics at home.

The government-linked aid agency also hopes to send personnel with expertise in conducting epidemiological studies and in logistics management.

It could be a challenge to secure enough experts. While about 1,000 doctors and nurses are registered disaster relief program members, a government source said the number of Japanese who have actually dealt with infectious diseases is “still small.”

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